Buildings across Boston are improving their efficiency, lowering their energy costs, and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Whether joining programs like the Mayor’s Carbon Cup or the Sustainable Buildings Initiative, taking advantage of available energy efficiency programs throughEversource and Nationalgrid, or publicly reporting their energy usage through the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), Boston’s building owners are showing strong leadership on climate change.

Despite these gains in sustainability, building owners are finding it difficult to take their emissions reduction work to the next level. Much of the ‘low hanging fruit’ in base building equipment improvements and LED retrofits have already been accomplished.

To achieve the 15% emissions reductions as encouraged by BERDO, or even the carbon neutral by 2050 goal called for by Mayor Walsh, whole new avenues for improvements need to be explored. One area that can make a large impact on these emission goals is tenant-level retrofits.

While building owners are able to make improvements in the ventilation, heating, water, envelope, and other major building equipment sectors, much of a building’s energy usage is out of their control. In some buildings, the majority of energy usage originates from tenant spaces, not the base building. Sustainable improvements to tenant energy usage can thus have a massive impact on a building’s overall energy performance.

 

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To help address issues that may come up in navigating this space between tenant and owner, A Better City has published a new resource, the Sustainable Tenant Fit-Out and Improvement Guide.

This guide presents a step-by-step process for tenants and owners to coordinate their efforts around sustainability. Tenant sustainability improvements can improve occupant experience and increase the market value of the space for both landlords and tenants. In recognition of the complexities of moving to a new space or pursuing upgrades, the guide identifies ways landlords and tenants can formalize sustainability and energy commitments. The guide also points to local resources like Eversource’s tenant efficiency programs and leasing guidance developed by the Boston Bar Association.

Whether during the initial build-out process or with later retrofits for current tenants, it is always a good time to explore sustainability improvements. By bringing together tenants and building owners, both parties are able to set ambitious yet realistic targets, and leverage available utility efficiency programs.

This guide gives tenants an outline to create a sustainability action plan to help with major decision making. Resources are offered to assist tenants at each step based on their goals and objectives. For example, the guide provides sample employee survey questions on sustainability to help identify organization-wide priorities for improvements to existing space or for exploring new office options.

Tenant level efficiency improvements for commercial buildings are not new, and the guide provides case studies from organizations throughout Boston like Boston Properties and  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts as leading examples. By embracing sustainability action now, tenants can help to lower their energy bills and owners get to see improvements to their building’s overall performance, all while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

 

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Earlier this month,  A Better City hosted a Landlord-Tenant Forum in partnership with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission. During the event, attendees had the opportunity to hear directly from successful landlord and tenant partnerships and learn more about Eversource Energy and National Grid’s tenant energy efficiency incentives.

A Better City’s Director of Sustainability Programs, Yve Torrie, commented, “We are excited to see the Tenant Fit-Out and Improvement Guide spark conversations between landlords, tenants, utilities and brokers. It is rare for these groups to discuss sustainability issues together. The guide is just the first step - we will continue engagement with Boston landlords and tenants through our new Sustainable Buildings Initiative program, which is focused on driving the next generation of sustainability and climate resiliency investments in the City.”


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