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Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure

Boston’s updated Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) sets requirements for large buildings. The goal is to reduce their emissions gradually to net zero by 2050. They also need to report their energy and water use data to the City annually.

Buildings account for nearly 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in Boston. The 2021 amendment to BERDO gives the City authority to set carbon targets for large existing buildings. The carbon targets will decrease over time, with all buildings achieving net zero emissions by 2050.  This policy will:

  • significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • encourage efficient use of energy and water, and
  • develop investments in a green economy.

To learn more, read the full text of the legislation

The City will develop regulations for implementing the updated policy over the coming months. Information about that process will be shared on this site and in the BERDO newsletter. Sign up for updates at the bottom of this page. 

Looking for information about building energy reporting requirements and data for 2021 and earlier? Visit the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure page
For reporting questions:

Email or call Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Find support upgrading your building:

Access Resource Hub

BERDO Reporting Listening Session

The Environment Department invites those who are required to meet BERDO compliance to join staff for a virtual listening session on the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) reporting and data verification requirements.

The purpose of the listening session is to hear from building owners and their designated reporters about their experiences reporting data under BERDO in prior years. Staff will use the feedback from this session to inform draft reporting and data verification regulations for 2022.

The data reporting and verification listening session will be held on Zoom on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 from 12:30 - 2:00 pm.

Registration is required

Covered buildings

BERDO applies to the following buildings and portfolios:

  • Nonresidential buildings that are 20,000 square feet or larger
  • Residential buildings that are 20,000 square feet or larger, or have 15 or more units
  • Any parcel with multiple buildings that sum to at least 20,000 square feet or 15 units

Buildings between 20,000 and 35,000 square feet or residential buildings between with 15 to 35 units will need to begin reporting their energy use in 2022. But, they will not be subject to the emissions standards until 2031, reporting for 2030 emissions.

Emissions standards

Covered buildings will be required to reduce their emissions over time. The following table shows the declining emissions standards that different building types will be required to meet each year. Emissions standards are reported in kgCO2e/SF/yr.

Building Use 2025- 2029 2030 - 2034 2035 - 2039 2040- 2044 2045-2049 2050 -
Assembly 7.8 4.6 3.3 2.1 1.1 0
College / University 10.2 5.3 3.8 2.5 1.2 0
Education 3.9 2.4 1.8 1.2 0.6 0
Food Sales and Service 17.4 10.9 8.0 5.4 2.7 0
Healthcare 15.4 10.0 7.4 4.9 2.4 0
Lodging 5.8 3.7 2.7 1.8 0.9 0
Manufacturing / Industrial 23.9 15.3 10.9 6.7 3.2 0
Multifamily Housing 4.1 2.4 1.8 1.1 0.6 0
Office 5.3 3.2 2.4 1.6 0.8 0
Retail  7.1 3.4 2.4 1.5 0.7 0
Services 7.5 4.5 3.3 2.2 1.1 0
Storage 5.4 2.8 1.8 1.0 0.4 0
Technology / Science 19.2 11.1 7.8 5.1 2.5 0

Building owners may develop and request approval for:

  • Individual Compliance Schedules, or
  • request a Hardship Compliance Plan.

The regulations process will identify the requirements for each of these pathways. 

Emissions factors

The emissions factors below were used for setting the emissions standards in the ordinance. The regulations process will establish guidance for defining emissions factors for compliance. This will include guidance on how building owners can calculate custom emissions factors for unique scenarios.

Want to learn more about how the emissions factors were determined for the ordinance? Please read the technical methods memo: 

Technical methods overview
Fuel Type Emission Factor (kgCO2e/MMBtu)
Natural Gas 53.11
Fuel Oil (no. 1) 73.50
Fuel Oil (no. 2) 74.21
Fuel Oil (no. 4) 75.29
Diesel Oil 74.21
District Steam 66.40
District Hot Water 66.40
Electric Driven Chiller 52.70
Absorption Chiller using Natural Gas 73.89
Engine-Driven Chiller Natural Gas 49.31
Grid electricity, 2018 87.50

Retrofit Resource Hub

Want to make healthy, climate resilient, and low-carbon building improvements? We have information to help building owners, tenants, and contractors.

Retrofit Resource Hub

Pathways for emissions reduction

REDUCE ENERGY USE

The first and most cost-effective step is to reduce your building's energy use by investing in energy efficiency upgrades. Utility incentives and energy cost savings often offset the upfront costs.

Holiday lights in downtown Boston
SWITCH FOSSIL FUELS TO ELECTRICITY

Consider switching from oil, propane, or natural gas to electricity. This allows your building to stop burning polluting fossil fuels and instead use clean, renewable energy.

BUY RENEWABLE ENERGY

Renewable energy can be produced onsite or purchased from off-site projects. You can cut down on the amount you need to buy by first making efficiency upgrades.

Understand your options

The most common ways to reduce energy usage include:

Operational Changes

Changes to how you operate your building could include occupant behavioral changes or equipment controls. Examples include:

  • changing the schedule or settings for heating systems, or
  • adding occupancy sensors for lighting (especially common area lighting).

These are less expensive than other measures. They can often be done in-between regular capital improvement cycles.

Lighting Upgrades

LEDs represent significant electricity savings compared to older bulbs. The pay for themselves over a very short period of time.

Envelope Upgrades

Air sealing or adding insulation to your building makes it more comfortable for occupants. It also reduces the heat load, so any future heating system replacement can be smaller (and therefore less expensive).

Heating and Hot Water System Replacement

Changes to heating or hot water systems should be considered very carefully. Because these systems have such long lifespans, equipment replaced now could still be in use in 2050. You should consider the opportunity cost of installing a new fossil fuel system.

The most common way for buildings to decarbonize their heating systems is to switch from using fossil fuels to electricity for heating and cooling. Buildings can switch their electric resistance, oil, and propane systems to heat pumps. This transition can often yield operational cost savings. Switching from natural gas to heat pumps can also lead to immediate savings when combined with energy efficiency and onsite solar lead. Any increased operational costs can be offset by benefits of the upgraded system. Many heat pump technologies improve quality of life through efficient cooling and better indoor air quality.

The more common types of heat pumps include:

Central Air-Source Heat Pumps

This is a common replacement for buildings with central air conditioning or furnaces. These heat pumps use ducts to deliver hot or cold air.

Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

This is a common replacement for buildings with hot water or steam distribution systems. Mini-splits add a wall unit to blow air into each zone to be heated or cooled.

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Heat Pump 

Most common in large buildings, VRF systems are able to provide both heating and cooling to different zones of the building at the same time.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

This is most appropriate for buildings with outdoor space to dig wells. Geothermal heat pumps (or ground-source heat pumps) pre-heat or pre-cool refrigerants using the constant temperature underground.

Air-to-Water Heat Pumps

These pumps are currently less common in the U.S. than Europe. Air-to-water heat pumps heat hot water for distribution. They can be used for both heating and hot water (and sometimes cooling).

We'll continue to update this information as new technologies emerge to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources.

Here are some ways to buy renewable electricity:

Onsite Renewables

Roof-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) is the most common onsite option in urban areas. This can be done through:

  • buying the system yourself, or
  • entering into a power purchase agreement with a solar provider, in which they own the system and sell you electricity at reduced rates.

This can be an attractive option for nonprofits or public entities. This is because the solar provider will be able to take advantage of existing tax credits. If your roof is nearing the end of its useful life, it should be replaced before installing solar PV.

Offsite Renewables

If your building doesn’t have sufficient roof space, or if there are other barriers to onsite renewables – such as grid constraints – there are multiple options for purchasing offsite renewables:

Community Choice Electricity

  • You or your tenants can participate in the City’s municipal aggregation program and opt up to 100% renewables.

Power purchase agreements (PPAs)

  • You can buy electricity from a renewable installation at another location.

Renewable energy credits (RECs)

  • You can maintain your current electricity supplier and buy the environmental attributes of offsite renewables through RECs.

Benefits

Living and working in healthier buildings

Cutting carbon pollution in large buildings will improve air quality.

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COST SAVINGS

Energy efficiency measures help reduce energy use and utility costs.

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CONSTRUCTION AND ENERGY JOB OPPORTUNITIES

The work to make our buildings healthier and efficient will create new, green job opportunities.

Policy Development Process

BERDO2 TIMELINE

ADVISORY GROUPS

The City convened a Technical Advisory Group and a Resident Advisory Group to help shape Boston's performance standard.

TECHNICAL ADVISORY GROUP

We worked with Synapse Energy Economics to develop carbon targets, decarbonization pathways, and analyze costs. 

RESIDENT ADVISORY GROUP

We partnered with One Square World and Alternatives for Community and Environment. We did this to center potentially impacted communities in the policy design process. Residents living in large buildings were convened in a Resident Advisory Group.

PUBLIC MEETINGS

In 2020 and early 2021, we convened a series of open houses to provide you an opportunity to participate in the policy's development.

OPEN HOUSE #1: WEDNESDAY, JULY 29, 2020, 6 - 7:30 P.M.
OPEN HOUSE #2: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2020, 6 - 7:30 P.M.
OPEN HOUSE #3: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2020, 6 - 7:30 P.M.
OPEN HOUSE #4: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2021, 6 - 7:30 P.M.
Technical methods overview
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