Boston 25 is Getting Real about climate change and examining ideas to help prepare our region for the consequences of more extreme weather.
A new state law will allow some communities to ban fossil fuel hookups for new construction and major renovations.
The Driscoll School in Brookline is being built so it will run without the use of any fossil fuels.
“The new Driscoll School is going to be all electric heat,” explained David Mendels of ZeroCarbonMA. “It makes it much more efficient. The air will be cleaner. It’ll produce less carbon. It’s healthier for the kids, for the teaches. It’s a win-win.”
This is an approach the town tried to mandate several years ago but it didn’t survive a legal challenge.
Mendels is encouraged is now encouraged by recent action on Beacon Hill.
“10 communities in Massachusetts will be allowed to start this process, banning fossil fuels in new construction and major renovations, and it’s a great start.”
This part of a larger climate action law could mean more communities could be following the example of Brookline’s Driscoll School.
Mayor Michelle Wu wants Boston to be one of the 10 communities that is selected to participate in this trial program.
“The majority of our emissions come from cities, and in Boston, come from our building sector.”
Wu added many of today’s construction technologies make it possible to build with green techniques without adding additional costs.
“In the long run, that saves our residents and small business owners utility costs very quickly so we’re looking at that big picture time frame.”
Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, isn’t convinced the numbers really work out and could have a negative effect on the high price of housing in the region.
He also believes these bans could slow the creation of badly needed affordable housing.
“Especially in the suburbs, by communities as a way to block housing that maybe affordable housing, because communities don’t want it, so they’ll use the guise of an environmental law to prevent that from happening.”
Supporters counter that to get approved, a community must already demonstrate they’ve met a threshold for affordable housing.
“For people who are new to this, there’s really nothing to be scared of,” said Mendels. “We’re going to get a better climate, less carbon emissions, better public health, cleaner air, and it’s not going to cost more in the long run.”
What about the part of the law that deals with renovations?
The guidelines are still being finalized, but it appears that if a homeowner wanted to replace a gas stove, that would be acceptable.
But if it’s a larger renovation, like a gut rehab, then switching to electric might be required.
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