COVID-19 information
/
For the latest updates, please visit our coronavirus (COVID-19) website:
Last updated:

Retrofit Resource Hub

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

You can find out more about your options when retrofitting, and learn about technical and financial resources.

Contact information

The Retrofit Resource Hub is managed by Boston’s Environment Department.

Want to learn more about how to reduce buildings' greenhouse gas emissions, make them more resilient, and save money? Contact us:

Are we missing something? Please email us any resources you'd like to share.

About the Hub

Boston's buildings account for about 70% of the entire City's greenhouse gas emissions. To address the climate crisis, all buildings in Boston will need to drastically reduce their emissions. The technology to do that is available now. Decreasing your building's emissions will help:

  • make your building healthier and more resilient
  • lower utility bills, and
  • create more construction and energy-related job opportunities.

You can choose the best path for your building based on:

  • equipment lifespan
  • tenant turnover
  • refinancing cycles, or
  • other long-term capital planning considerations.

It’s important to be prepared when these milestones happen. Through the resources on this page, you can start making your plan today.

Boston’s Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) requires large buildings to meet targets. These targets put them on track to the citywide goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

BERDO information

Pathways for emissions reduction

Emissions
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

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. 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.

Financial resources

Financial help
Better Buildings Financing Navigator

A collection of resources from the U.S. Department of Energy. This includes:

  • sector energy financing primers
  • financing option fact sheets
  • high-level market overviews and guides, and
  • information on financing policies and programs.
Mass Save

Get rebates, custom incentives, and loans for a variety of energy efficiency measures. For a dedicated Eversource Energy Efficiency consultant team for large buildings, contact:

Fannie Mae

Get reduced interest rate loans and discounted audits for multi-family housing retrofits that reduce energy use.

Freddie Mac

Get reduced interest rate loans and discounted audits for multi-family housing retrofits that reduce energy use.

LISC

Get reduced interest rate loans and discounted audits for multi-family housing retrofits that reduce energy use.  

Mass Housing Partnership

Get reduced interest rate loans and discounted audits for multi-family housing retrofits that reduce energy use.

DHCD

Offers low- or no-interest loans for affordable multi-family buildings.

BIDFA Tax-Exempt Lease

Offers low-interest financing for nonprofits using performance contracts to reduce their energy use.

Commercial PACE

Get financing for energy improvements for:

  • commercial
  • industrial, and
  • large multi-family properties
Boston Home Center

City of Boston income-eligible loans and grants for home repair and heating system replacement.

SMART

Get incentives for solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, with adders for:

  • energy storage
  • community solar, and
  • projects that benefit low-income households.
Business Energy Investment Tax Credit

This federal tax credit is for renewable projects, including solar and geothermal.

Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System

This federal depreciation deduction for businesses recovers investments in solar PV, solar thermal, and geothermal.

Solar and Wind Power Deduction

Learn about the Massachusetts excise tax deduction for solar and wind systems.

Renewable Energy Property Tax Exemption

Learn about the Massachusetts property tax exemption for solar and wind systems.

Community Choice Electricity

The City of Boston program buys affordable and renewable electricity on behalf of its residents and businesses.

Mass Save

Get incentives for switching from oil, propane, or electric resistance heating and hot water systems to heat pumps. For a dedicated Eversource Energy Efficiency consultant team for large buildings, contact:

Department of Energy Resources

Get Alternative Energy Credits for:

  • solar hot water
  • air-source heat pumps, and
  • ground source heat pumps.
Eversource

You can receive incentives for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations.

Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program

The program offers rebates for the hardware and installation costs of electric vehicle charging stations.

Sign up for updates

Interested in staying up to date about building retrofit resources? Join our newsletter!

Retrofit Resource Hub newsletter

Back to top