New Boston Homes Generate More Energy Than They Consume

In 2013, Boston earned the title of the most energy-efficient city in the United States from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). So why is the city outranking all others?


For one, the city implemented its own Climate Change policy, which sets energy-savings goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020, for the municipal government and the community. In 2013, Boston also initiated an ordinance requiring businesses to report emissions data that the city would make publically available in an attempt to keep buildings accountable for energy consumption and promote the reduction of harmful emissions.


Where the city is really breaking ground though is in its housing development. In December, the city of Boston revealed its second round of energy-positive housing. The two townhomes, which generate 11 percent more energy than they consume, are packed full of energy-saving features, such as ENERGY STAR appliances and extra insulation.


The units become energy-positive thanks to rooftop solar panels, which have the potential to generate more clean power than the homes will use. At almost 1,500 square-feet, the three bedroom and two-and-a-half bathroom townhomes, built by GFC Development, are on the market for $595,000, a bit more than the area's median home price of $540,000.

However, this latest project, launched by the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Department of Neighborhood Development, isn't the city's first foray into energy-positive homes. At the end of August, the city of Boston unveiled some of the nation's first energy-positive townhouses. The row of four homes not only hold LEED platinum certification, the highest accreditation available, but they produce almost double the energy they consume.

At almost 2,000 square feet, each townhome, constructed by Urbanica Inc., is three stories tall with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. The rooftops are covered in 37 solar panels, allowing the structures to generate more than enough renewable energy.

Transformations Inc., the company that provided the solar panels, estimates that the townhomes will cut utility costs by $132 per month. This should more than cover the energy costs of the units because of added energy-efficient upgrades, such as extra thick insulation, triple-glazed windows and low-flow plumbing.

The units were priced at $550,000, which is just slightly above the median price for a home in the Boston area. Additionally, homeowners were given the opportunity to purchase the rooftop solar panels for $50,000 or lease for $105 per month. Although that may seem steep on top of the price of the home, with tax credits and energy savings, the panels would pay for themselves in five to six years, according to the Boston Globe. After that, the solar energy will not only power the home, but provide additional revenue for its owner.

The city also has a third set of energy-positive homes in the works. Transformations Inc. has been contracted to build four townhouses on city-owned land. And the Mayor's  E+ Green Building Program is planning a fourth site, which would include 25 to 35 energy-positive residential units, at least 14,000 square feet of community gardens and 8,000 square feet of dedicated retail space.

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Comment by Shawna Henderson on March 13, 2014 at 1:13pm

Stephanie, thanks for this! I am working with the Net-Zero Energy Coalition to carry out this project:  Low Energy Housing Technology Cost Index Survey

The Net-Zero Energy Coalition is seeking costing information from builders across North America who have direct experience building net-zero energy (NZE), net-zero energy ready (NZEr), or near net-zero energy (nNZE) homes.

Your participation will help to validate cost effective design and construction of NZE / NZEr / nNZE homes and support the development of guidelines for building these homes.

Individual responses will be kept anonymous - results of the survey will only be communicated in summary form. Participants will receive a copy of the summary report.

We're hoping to populate it with cost data from around North America. It closes tomorrow, but if you are interested in sharing some data, or can put me in touch with the people who can supply costing data, you could PM me and I'll see that it happens. Cheers,

Shawna Henderson

CEO, Bfreehomes Design Ltd.

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