Building Literacy: Public Library Construction

Construction and Climate Change Legislation: A Conversation with Eric Friedman

July 14, 2021 Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Construction Team Season 5 Episode 1
Building Literacy: Public Library Construction
Construction and Climate Change Legislation: A Conversation with Eric Friedman
Chapters
Building Literacy: Public Library Construction
Construction and Climate Change Legislation: A Conversation with Eric Friedman
Jul 14, 2021 Season 5 Episode 1
Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Construction Team

In this episode, we discuss the Commonwealth’s new Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy and Executive Order 594 with Eric Friedman, the Director of the Leading by Example Program, which is a division of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. From a higher level perspective, we explore what this new legislation means for our municipal libraries and how to reduce carbon emissions and plan for a clean energy future. 

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we discuss the Commonwealth’s new Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy and Executive Order 594 with Eric Friedman, the Director of the Leading by Example Program, which is a division of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. From a higher level perspective, we explore what this new legislation means for our municipal libraries and how to reduce carbon emissions and plan for a clean energy future. 

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

vehicles, important, executive order, emissions, building, library, buildings, state, massachusetts, legislation, municipalities, people, year, electrify, construction, energy, reduce, fossil fuels, energy efficiency, goal

SPEAKERS

Eric Friedman, Lauren Stara, Andrea Bunker

 

Andrea Bunker  00:00

Welcome to Building Literacy: Public Library Construction, a podcast for librarians, trustees, and local officials who are exploring or undertaking a renovation, expansion, or new construction project for their library. My name is Andrea Bunker.

 

Lauren Stara  00:15

And my name is Lauren Stara. And we are the Library Building Specialists who administer the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, a multi-million dollar grant program run by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, which is the state agency for libraries.

 

Andrea Bunker  00:33

While this podcast is Massachusetts-focused, stakeholders in library building projects everywhere may find helpful information within these episodes. From fundraising and advocacy campaigns, to sustainability and resilience, to the planning, design and construction process. There is something for everyone. If there's a public library building project topic we have not covered but that is of interest to you, please email me at [email protected] 

 

Lauren Stara  01:01

or me at [email protected]

 

Andrea Bunker  01:05

In March of 2020, right before we learned the pandemic had begun spreading in Massachusetts, I attended the one day energy conference at Tufts University. We heard from researchers, policy-makers, green energy companies and investors, and students dedicated to slowing climate change and trying to reverse the trajectory we have created for our planet. The message of the conference was clear: We must make changes now if we expect earth to be viable for subsequent generations. I left with a sense of dread knowing that federal actions had been stalled, and even eliminated, and that the leadership now rested in the hands of the states. Massachusetts has created a fairly aggressive roadmap toward ending our reliance on fossil fuels. It is a work in progress, and there is much to do, especially regarding the inequities affecting climate vulnerable populations, populations of our Commonwealth who also experienced inequities throughout the pandemic. We recently caught up with Eric Friedman, the Director of the Commonwealth's Leading by Example program, which is part of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, to learn about new legislation, an updated executive order, and the steps we can all take on this journey to a better tomorrow. Eric, thank you so much for joining us.

 

Eric Friedman  02:19

Thanks for having me here today. It's great to talk to you about something I'm very passionate about and have been doing for quite some time. I am the Director of the Leading by Example program, which as you said, is within the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. We are a program within that agency that focuses on the environmental impacts or environmental footprint associated with state government and all of the emissions and environmental impacts that come out of state government. And so for example, we have 80 million square feet of buildings, close to 7500 vehicles, tens of 1000s of employees, and all of the things that we do day to day, whether we're driving our cars to meetings, or turning on lights in our offices, when we're in our offices, or heating our buildings and facilities, providing hot water to populations that reside in state hospitals, etc. All of those things have an impact. And so our job at Leading by Example is to work on ways to reduce the impact of all of those operational elements that happened every day.

 

Andrea Bunker  03:26

And this past Spring has been kind of an exciting one with the Governor signing executive order 594 and also signing the Climate Act. And I was wondering if you could give us a brief overview of both of those and share why they are important pieces of legislation for our state.

 

Eric Friedman 03:44

Yes, and you're absolutely right. This is a pretty exciting time, at least here in Massachusetts when it comes to climate policy. The first thing you talked about or mentioned was a piece of legislation that was passed earlier this year and signed into law by Governor Baker. This legislation was called An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy. The legislation is lengthy, and it does many things, so I certainly won't go into the details on all of it. But I can certainly highlight a number of key provisions in the legislation that will really have a significant impact in our climate efforts and our climate policies moving forward. So the first thing it does is sets into law a net zero emissions target in 2050. This was a target that Governor Baker had set last year, but the Legislature went ahead and actually then codified that into law. So it is now a legally enforceable goal for Massachusetts to achieve net zero emissions Commonwealth-wide when we get into 2050. It also sets a series of interim targets for 2030, which is a 50% reduction. This is all over our 1990 baseline, by the way. And then a 75% reduction in 2040. And then, again, a minimum 85% reduction and a total net zero emissions goal in 2050. It also gives the Secretary of Energy Environmental Affairs the authority to set interim targets, meaning she can set, she now or whoever it may be later on, targets for 2025, 2035, and 2045. And so that will help to drive emissions reduction strategies in a much shorter term, which is an important element of the law. It also gives authority to the Secretary of Environmental Affairs, the ability to set sector specific emissions limits. This is if, in fact, it is determined that the state is not meeting its overall goals, then the authority is given to the Secretary of EEA to establish these limits in specific sectors, and that can include the transportation sector or the electric power sector. And this is important because sometimes sectors or people will say, "Oh, those emissions are going to happen elsewhere, we don't really need to do it, we're not that big a deal." But this does give the authority to the Secretary to target specific sectors that are perhaps lagging behind and need to have some additional regulations or additional rules associated with their efforts and their impacts. The law also focuses a bit on environmental justice and equity. It establishes an Environmental Justice Council, whose job it is to review policies and standards and provide feedback to the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs. It also establishes a equity workforce, a clean energy equity workforce and market development program. And so there's an annual investment going to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center or Mass CEC. And those funds are to be used for things like workforce training, professional development, job placement, startup opportunities, as a way of really supporting jobs and economic development in environmental justice communities. I think the last thing I'll say here is the legislation also increases our commitment to renewable energy on a grid basis, we have what's called a renewable energy portfolio standard or an RPS. Up until this legislation was passed, the law requires a 2% increase every year in the amount of renewable energy that we are getting from sources in the region. This law increases that 2%, during the last five years of this decade, from 2% to 3%. Doesn't sound like a lot, but over five years, you get an additional 5%. We should be up to a significant amount of renewable energy by the time we get to 2030. That's good news for those of us who are working hard to move away from fossil fuels and move to electrification of our buildings and of our fleets. Greening the grid is a really, really important part of that puzzle. And, again, there are lots of other things that go on in that law, but I think I'll pause there and move on to the second thing that you mentioned, which is an executive order, signed by the governor on Earth Day of this year, April 22. This Executive Order 594 is the new iteration of the Leading by Example program here in Massachusetts. We have been around for a while. There was a previous executive order from 2007, actually, and that Executive Order 44 is now superseded by this executive order. But that order had a number of goals and targets. And what this order does is really build on that previous executive order, and shift our focus a bit and also add a number of new directives and new goals for state agencies and public institutions of higher education. So I'll just walk through maybe just a couple of the important elements of that executive order, then certainly, you can ask more questions or details if you'd like. The first thing I think that's important to note about this new executive order is that we have shifted our focus to specifically target the emissions at state government buildings and within the fleets that come directly from fossil fuels. So what this means is that while we care about electricity consumption, and we care about the emissions that come from electricity, we also recognize that those emissions are going down, almost no matter what we do, because of all of those great efforts going on at the grid: the offshore wind projects that you've heard about, all the solar that's being developed across Massachusetts, clean hydro coming from Canada. All of these large scale, grid-related renewable energy projects are dramatically reducing the intensity of emissions coming from electricity, regardless of what we do. And so what we have said is that because the grid is getting cleaner, we should really be focusing on the emissions that we have control over and that are actually really the hardest emissions for individual facilities or individual buildings to reduce. So what we're talking about here is the natural gas that we use to heat our buildings, the gasoline and diesel we use to power our vehicles, fuel oil, if we use that to heat our buildings as well. All of those elements are not going to be changed by some central authority or central utility; we have to do that individually at each of our facilities and buildings. So this order set some very specific goals for reducing emissions from those consumption patterns. The second thing the order does is puts a very strong focus on our vehicle fleet, even though the emissions coming from our fleet in Massachusetts are relatively small. Comparatively, less than 15% of our fossil fuel emissions come from our fleet operations. But we recognize that moving to electric vehicles is an absolutely critical part of what has to happen across the Commonwealth. I should, just as a side note, mention that transportation is the largest contributor to emissions in Massachusetts. And so there's lots of policies that are being developed and proposed to try and address those emissions. So we recognize that setting the example and leading the way in converting our fleet to electric vehicles, or zero emission vehicles is really important to set the standard for the rest of the Commonwealth, even though the emissions impact itself is much smaller than it will be Commonwealth-wide. And so there are a number of targets in the executive order that require our fleet to have increasing numbers of zero emission vehicles such that by 2050, our fleet is entirely zero emission. It also sets a much shorter term purchasing requirements, so that starting next year, any agency purchasing a vehicle will have to first look at whether or not there is an electric or zero emission vehicle available for that purchase and if it is available, and then if on what we call a total cost of ownership calculation is not prohibitive, or is not significantly more expensive than the gas vehicle, they will then be required to purchase that vehicle. That's for smaller vehicles, you know, very small pickup trucks and passenger cars. And then the requirement increases to heavier duty vehicles when we get to fiscal year 2024. And also then by 2030, all vehicles will have to go through that process. And then the last thing I'll say, and again, there are a number of things in this executive order. But the last thing I'll point out here is that there is a new standard for new construction. So we've been operating under an old standard, which is done a lot to move the needle forward on new construction. We have a lot of very efficient new buildings in our state portfolio. We even have some buildings that have been built to what we call a netzero standard, so they are generating enough renewable energy from on site, renewable development that is equivalent to the amount of energy they use in the course of a year. This order goes a step further and really says that any new construction must again be efficient, must be LEED certified, because we want to get at all of the benefits of LEED. But it also requires that any heating systems and hot water systems cannot use fossil fuels essentially. So it requires the use of efficient electricity or what we call renewable thermal technologies to generate that heat and hot water. And that's really the direction that we think codes are going to be going in and that buildings are going to be going in, And certainly in the state policies, this is a design goal of the policymakers across the Commonwealth that we essentially electrify our building stock. And certainly the first place to do that where it's easiest is in new construction. Easiest is the wrong word. I think where it's less complicated, less onerous, is in new construction. So we've taken the step of essentially saying, we think the future is now when it comes to new construction, and we can build buildings now that meet these standards. So that, again, we're not locking ourselves into fossil fuel use for the next several decades by putting in boiler systems that, you know, are using fossil fuels. So those are some of the key elements in the executive order. Again, there's a lot more in there. But I'll stop there and let you interject.

 

Andrea Bunker  14:10

There are a few things that I'd like to get further information on. But I'll start with what you talked about last and when you talk about new construction and creating systems that are electrified and more energy efficient. So that goal of 2050, if we start now, anytime any building is upgraded for their heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems, their HVAC systems, they should be moving to electrification of those systems. So that time period gives the opportunity for a natural transition over to electric systems. So it's not like you're saying you have to do this now. But as your system fails and you need to replace it, then you create a more energy efficient system by looking at an electric system. Is that kind of the impetus behind that in the 2050 goal for a natural transition?

 

Eric Friedman 15:07

So I think you're raising a really important point, which I didn't talk about, which is the distinction between new construction and existing buildings. Certainly, existing buildings will, even in the next 30 years, we'll still be the vast majority of the structures that we have, whether it's in state government or just in Massachusetts.

 

Andrea Bunker  15:26

80% of our building stock.

 

Eric Friedman  15:27

Yeah, exactly. Yep. So it's absolutely critical that we look at the natural cycle of equipment replacement in our existing buildings, so that you're absolutely right, so we're not replacing systems in kind, and just fostering and furthering the dependence on fossil fuels for the next several decades and then getting to 2050 and say, "Uh oh, what do I do now?" So absolutely, as equipment reaches the end of its useful life. Absolutely what's important here is to be focusing on finding those new technologies that exist and have been out in the world for many years now. And replacing those fossil fuel systems with these electrified or renewable thermal technologies that will, you know, again, help us reach our goals by 2050.

 

Andrea Bunker  16:13

And something that you mentioned before, too, was that transportation makes up the majority of our emissions in the state. And I'm sure that this legislation was being worked on pre-pandemic. But I think all of us, at least in the Boston area, really saw a shift and a difference in traffic, which I know now, as reported by the Globe, and which I've experienced firsthand when I go into the office is back to pre-pandemic levels, right, so our traffic is, I would say, it feels even worse. And I don't know if that's because we just came out of this time period where it was amazing to be on 93 and not be stuck in traffic for three hours. So was there anything from our pandemic existence that impacted the way that this legislation was shaped?

 

Eric Friedman  17:02

So I will acknowledge that this is not my area of expertise. But I will say that certainly there are sort of two distinct ways to look at how emissions are generated within our transportation sector. So one is the vehicles themselves. So regardless of how many vehicles are on the road, or what they're doing, or how many miles are traveling, vehicles that use electricity that comes from renewable sources versus vehicles that are burning fossil fuels, obviously, the emissions impact between those two technologies is pretty significant. So one way in which the state is working to try and reduce emissions from the transportation sector is to build up the number of electric vehicles and also increase the infrastructure available for charging those vehicles. We're providing incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. We've just launched a new program for heavier duty vehicles over 8500 pounds. There's a new effort underway called the transportation, TCI, Transportation Climate Initiative, which is an effort that Massachusetts has been spearheading with a number of other states that is hoping to begin in a couple of years that will raise some additional funds to support those very efforts. There are also funds available through the Volkswagen settlement that have been going to electric infrastructure, electric charging infrastructure, as well as to retrofit and reduce emissions coming from diesel vehicles and convert those vehicles to non-fossil fuel systems. So there's a lot of efforts underway to transition away from fossil fuel consumption in our transportation sector. But, as you note, there are other things that can be done or there are other ways in which emissions are coming from our transportation sector. And that includes how many miles are being driven, how many people are on the roads, are people taking mass transit versus driving. So all of those things, I think, require a different set of policies. Those have nothing to do with the kinds of vehicles we're driving but are more related to the behaviors and the choices that we make. I think it is yet to be seen how the pandemic will ultimately affect our traffic patterns and whether or not more people working from home, as is likely to be, and when people get, you know, more comfortable getting back onto mass transit in significant ways, it will be interesting to see whether or not that number we point to of like vehicle miles traveled actually goes down. And is that a strategy? Working from home is certainly a strategy to get people off of the roads. And there are other, you know, policies and strategies that are being talked about. I will admit I'm not privy to those, that's sort of beyond my scope, but certainly people are aware of, you know, how do we get people out of their cars? How do we increase a variety of mobility options for people, you know, this includes improving mass transit. We've got a green line extension, you know, approaching the ends of its construction, building by paths, increasing safety in the roads for pedestrians. So there's lots of things that can be done. And I certainly know, those policies, you know, are front and center of much of the work that goes on as well.

 

Lauren Stara  20:10

Something that I'm confused about is where do hybrid vehicles fit in this effort? I mean, at least my understanding is, when we get to 2050, hybrid vehicles are just as worthless as gas powered vehicles. Is that correct? Or is there some middle ground there?

 

Eric Friedman  20:31

It's a complicated question. And I think it probably depends a little bit on who you talk to. I think the future of vehicle technology is a little bit up in the air. Some people are, are very strongly encouraging the use of plug-in hybrid vehicles, for example. So that's a hybrid vehicle that has a gasoline engine, but also can be plugged in, and has a bigger battery than just a standard hybrid vehicle. And so those vehicles actually can run on electricity for short distances, 15, 20, 25 miles, 30 miles, something like that, depending on the vehicle. And so, you know, those are kind of a step up from a vehicle that only runs on gasoline. And then of course, you know, once you get past the plug in, you get to a full battery electric, which only runs on electricity, and has to be fully charged through your plug through your electricity system. I think the answer is this. You know, when we buy vehicles, vehicles often stay on the road for many, many years. It's not like buying the laptop, people buy laptops, and then or a cell phone, right? It's like, those kind of go through the cycle every 2, 3, 4, 5 years at most, right? People don't have an iPhone from five years ago, pretty much right? They've already converted once, maybe even twice in that timeframe. But that's not true with vehicles, vehicles actually stay on the road for many years, you know, a decade sometimes more. And certainly in our state fleet, we find this. We know that the vehicles we buy are in our fleet for at least eight years and often longer. And it depends on budgets, it depends on how many miles the vehicles are driven, what condition they're in, but we certainly see those vehicles staying in our fleet for a long time. So the question I think is what's the timing of what you're talking about? Right? If we're talking about buying hybrids in 2040, well, that doesn't make a lot of sense, because those vehicles are going to be still on the road in 2050. Right? If we're talking about buying them now, instead of a gas guzzling car, okay, that's certainly a step in the right direction. So I think I would leave you with a sort of hierarchy, which is what we are putting in place for our guidelines that will be issued to our agencies. And it's to start with a battery electric vehicle or a zero emission vehicle. And that should be your first choice. If you can find a vehicle that makes sense that runs fully on energy that does not come from fossil fuels, that's what you should get. Your second choice is a plug-in hybrid. Right? Because that will use electricity for some part of your trip. And so if you can find a plug-in hybrid, that can serve your needs and does what it needs to do for your operational needs. Whether you're a person, an individual person or a fleet, then that's your second choice. If you can't buy a plug-in hybrid, because they're not available for the vehicle that you want, then you go to, you know, as efficient a hybrid vehicle as you can find. And then lastly, if you can't find a hybrid, you look at the vehicles that are available. And you pick the one that has the highest, you know, mpg rating, and is the most efficient. So that I think is a reasonable hierarchy for anyone looking to make an impact on emissions. That hierarchy, I think, will change as we move on in time. But that's I think the one we're starting with right now until zero emission vehicles become widely available, and you know, really are the norm out there. And that I think, is coming sooner than we think.

 

Andrea Bunker  23:48

And I think this is an important discussion for our libraries. I know we are construction focused, but with the federal funding that's coming through through ARPA and other programs, a lot of our libraries, especially the ones in the gateway cities are looking at adding bookmobiles to their fleet. So how they go about choosing that. And then I know that it could be a van, a larger bookmobile, and those are the more difficult vehicles at this point to get in an electrified form.

 

Eric Friedman  24:19

Yeah, that's true. They are coming, though. So I think if folks can be patient. So one thing we would say also part of this hierarchy is okay, if you can't find a vehicle that you need, that's electric, and the only one out there is the van that gets, you know, 18 miles to a gallon, right, or 16 miles per gallon, and you're gonna have that van in your fleet for 10 years or more. The question then becomes, is there a zero emission vehicle coming soon? And if there is, can you hold off on purchasing that for a year or two and use what you have or cobble together something else? And I know that's not always an easy decision for folks. Sometimes they need what they need, and I get that, but I think if we're really going to achieve our goals, we really have to be creative and be flexible. And so I think this is one area where we can really try and look at the market, and understand Ford is coming out with new electric vehicles that are really pushing in, you know, into that next sphere of vehicle types. And that includes a pickup truck that's electric, they're coming out with a Ford Transit van that will be electric as well. And I think that's all happening within the next year or two. So these vehicles are going to start to come, and so patients, I think is, you know, a watchword as well, and a way to, you know, not lock yourself in, again, to these really inefficient gasoline powered vehicles.

 

Andrea Bunker  25:37

And I think that's an important note, too. But I think the ARPA funding, they only have a specific amount of time in which they can spend it. So then they say, this is the cutoff date. So some of those libraries that wouldn't have the opportunity otherwise to provide services to those populations. So it's almost like there's a disconnect between the manufacturing end. It's not aligning with it. So I think we'll have to do a little bit more in terms of communication around those vehicles with our libraries.

 

Eric Friedman  26:07

Yeah, and there are, I mean, there are sort of nice vehicles available. They're not necessarily from Ford or Chevy at the moment, right, that fit those needs. But there are other options. And so depending on the funding and resources available, you can upfit vehicles, for example, through a local company called XL Hybrids (XL Fleet) that does both a hybrid upfit as well as an electrification upfit for certain vehicles. There are other sort of smaller companies that do have all electric vans. So you know, we're happy to share that information with you. It may not fit the needs or the budget of your libraries, but certainly it's worth knowing that those vehicles do exist.

 

Lauren Stara  26:12

Well, and it also depends on where the ARPA funds are coming from. So if libraries are talking about ARPA funding that's coming from us through IMLS, that has an earlier cut off date than funds that might be coming through the municipality. So keeping all of the options in mind, I think is important.

 

Andrea Bunker  27:12

So if we could shift over to our main area, which is construction. I know you touched on this a little bit with the executive order regarding new construction. But for our municipalities, this is a state executive order, so it pertains to state building. But if the municipalities wanted to look at this as some sort of goal that they want to attain, what would compliance with this legislation look like for them for their public assets?

 

Eric Friedman 27:44

So when you say compliance, I talked about the executive order, or?

 

Andrea Bunker  27:47

I guess both, climate act and executive order, both of them together, but I know that the executive order is more state building focused than it is for others.

 

Eric Friedman 27:58

Yes, it's important to note that the legislation and executive order also are two very different types of documents. The legislation is really about broad policies and broad statewide goals, or statewide directives. Those directives or those goals don't automatically filter down to individual projects or individual municipalities even. So that's very different from the executive order, which actually has set specific targets for state government as an entity, right? A much sort of smaller group of agencies and portfolio, and the directives are much more specific than they would be in the legislation. And that's just a function of, you know, legislation versus a document like an executive order. So I think that the way we look at this is that the name of our program, Leading by Example, the goal is for us to lead by example. And it's not just to reduce emissions, right? That's not our only goal, because even if we eliminated every single greenhouse gas emission from state government tomorrow, that would be, you know, maybe 1%, one and a half percent of statewide emissions. So that doesn't, really, I mean, it makes an impact, but it's not a significant impact in getting to a net zero emissions goal by 2050. So the real importance of what we do aside from reducing emissions somewhat, is to demonstrate what can be done and how it can be done. And so we've been doing a lot of that already by building netzero buildings, by LEED certifying, you know, all of our state buildings, implementing energy efficiency across the portfolio, starting efforts to integrate zero emission and electric vehicles into our fleets. And our goal is to do that so that others can understand the roadmap, understand the pathway to follow those achievements, those policies. So our message is, yes, this executive order is specifically directed at state government, but there's no reason that municipalities or others can't do the same thing and can't adopt some of those same strategies or adopt some of those same goals or policies or directives. And I think we'd like to say, you know, if we can do this as a state governments, as this large, you know, pretty bureaucratic, incredibly varied, and somewhat decentralized entity, then there's no reason that other entities can't follow suit and can't adopt some or all of the same goals. You know, we would certainly encourage, whether it's a library construction project or a municipality to, you know, look at what we are doing and look at where we are headed. And to, you know, I'm not saying they should adopt everything we say, but certainly to look at some of the important elements of what we are setting out for ourselves, and to try and incorporate those into their own goals.

 

Andrea Bunker  30:45

And I do think that there are some communities, you know, through the Green Communities group, they have begun to move toward that. We have a few libraries that are being built net zero, ready.

 

Eric Friedman  30:57

That's great.

 

Andrea Bunker  30:57

And more and more seem to be shifting, which is great. For our program, it's split between new construction, and then renovation/addition, so, we really run the gamut in terms of what the project look like. And we do have some municipalities where it's impossible to get another site to build a new building, so you really are looking at maybe a deep energy retrofit. And I know in a previous discussion that we had, we talked about looking beyond just your HVAC system. So I'm wondering if we can talk a little bit about buildings that are already existing, because as we already stated, most, I think about 80% of our built environment for 2050 is already in existence now, at least in our state. So how do renovation/expansion, and I guess, even single purpose projects- that could be lighting replacement, HVAC upgrade, window replacement, etc?- how did they fall in line with this trajectory for carbon neutral?

 

Eric Friedman  31:57

I think they're all important, and they're all part of the pathway that we need to be on. I think it's important to remember that getting to net zero emissions is going to require electrifying or moving away from fossil fuels, both in our existing and new construction. But it's also really important to remember that reducing our load and reducing our demand is a really important part of that process. And there's a couple of reasons why that I think it's important to just reiterate for your listeners here. The first one is that electricity consumption, electricity use can actually be you know, more expensive on sort of a BTU basis than natural gas. That's just a function of where we live, how pricing is happening. And also, it's a function of, you know, the very cheap natural gas prices that are really across the country. So it's really important to try and make sure that our structures are allowing for our demands to be lowered and to be reduced. It's a cost effective strategy to make sure that when we do electrify, we're using less of it, and also reducing our energy costs. But the second part that is also very important about reducing our load is related to the grid and what's going to happen to the grid as we electrify our fleets and electrify our buildings. Let's remember that, you know, our electricity sector, our grid is built to provide energy to the entire region or entire state at the peak demand, right? Which is usually on some sultry July afternoon, you know, where we've seen four days of 95 degrees or hotter, and it's very humid. And all of that, you know, air conditioning is just building up and building up. And the system is really built to provide that demand that happens, you know, at that time. That doesn't mean that every power plant is running all the time, but we have a lot of power plants that come on in those last few hours of the year where we need that peak level. So when we're electrifying everything, you think about what's going to happen if we've electrified everything, we're also adding electric vehicles onto the grid, we've now are increasing that peak demand that we will see across the state and across the region. And so it's really important that we try and minimize that increased load as much as possible. And really, there are two ways to do that, right? Efficiency is first and foremost the biggest one, so we want to make sure that whatever load we are adding on is as small and as minimal as possible. And then secondly, which we haven't really talked about, but it will become increasingly important to make sure that we are implementing strategies to reduce that peak demand. And there are lots of ways- battery storage is obviously the one that many people already know about. That's a very effective way of just reducing that load for that two to four hour period that we need at those very peaky days. And there are other ways as well. There are, you know, building controls and changing set points, and there's lots of other ways of entering into this peak demand reduction world. And all of that is going to become, you know, much more important as our electricity demand grows both at the Winter actually as we electrify our heat, but also in Summer, as we add, you know, vehicle infrastructure and vehicle charging as well.

 

Andrea Bunker  35:18

So as we look at these renovation and addition projects, or even these single purpose projects, really tightening up that envelope to reduce the demand that you may need is an important piece to that. So that you can make sure that you're not, I guess, providing air comfort and quality control to the outside air through leaks in your building. But I know that currently, as part of this legislation, there's going to be a stretch code created for about 2024, with the possibility of it being mandated by 2028, as we move forward. So I didn't know if you want to talk a little bit about the building envelopes and that stretch code.

 

Eric Friedman  36:01

There actually will be two stretch codes- there'll be a standard stretch code that will be issued and then there will be what's called a specialized stretch code that DOER will actually issue and that will be more advanced energy code that will, as you say, focus a lot on envelope. That stretch code really applies to new construction or anything that fits into the definition of new construction. And I think that's in part in recognition of the complexities associated with pre improving your envelopes in existing buildings, it's a much harder thing to do. Which is why again, I think, even though we recognize that 80% of our buildings will still be around in 2050, getting this right for new construction is really important, right? One, it allows us to reduce that load dramatically for any new buildings being put in. So 20% is not nothing, it's really important. And secondly, it also gets us experience with these technologies and with these techniques. So understanding how improved envelopes work, what kind of techniques we need to do to get them installed. How do heat pumps work? How do we operate them? What are the right ways to install them? Do we do ground source heat pump, air source heat pumps, a combination? So making sure that we are expanding both the customer experience and also the vendor or contractor experience with installing the systems is really important as well, we want the workforce to be incredibly educated and knowledgeable about what these systems do, how they work, how we install them, and we need to get it right. We can't be installing the systems and having them not work and then, you know, putting in a backup systems that use fossil fuels or not having buildings that are, you know, occupiable. So we want to make sure that they work, I don't want to lose sight of the value and the importance of the new construction piece. When it comes to existing buildings, it is a much tougher road to follow when it comes to envelope improvements. One just because of the cost, it's just more expensive and harder to do. And secondly, because of the technologies or the products that may not even exist, or the complexity of installing insulation in a concrete building, let's say, or in a brick building. This is very, very hard to do, and, you know, has all sorts of other issues related to moisture, and you know, other things that we care about, particularly in libraries, right? There are lots of ways to think about envelopes, right? It's not just how do we add six inches of foam, you know, to every single building we own, it's how do we at least improve the envelope as best we can. And so sometimes that might be window replacements. That's important. It's not everything, it's usually the walls are much bigger part. But windows can often be a huge source of leakage and air infiltration. So getting your window envelope tight, it can be really important. There's something called air sealing, which is not really a common term that many people know about. But it's really important. It's a relatively simple and straightforward way of finding the places where air is leaking either in or out of the building and just trying to seal them up at those seams. Often it's where you have building corners coming together, you know, the seams up at the attic. So there are some specific places where just like spot sealing your building can have a big impact on air infiltration. Sometimes adding insulation in the roof or the attic is a really important thing, it's a lot easier to do that than it is to insulate the walls of our building. So that can be an important piece of the puzzle. And then there are, you know, some technologies and strategies like interior windows. So if you can't replace your windows, you can add a storm window, you can add an interior window that provides you at least some additional protection against the airflow that's moving in and out of our buildings. So even if you can't do full fledged envelope improvements for your entire building, there are other steps along the way that you can actually implement that will have at least some impact and allow you to electrify down the road much more easily and much more cost effectively.

 

Andrea Bunker  40:03

And I know many people might be familiar with the Mass Save program, which is one that's run with the energy companies and they come in and they evaluate your residence and give you ideas on where to insulate and where to reduce your energy load. Is there something that's available for municipalities along those lines?

 

Eric Friedman  40:24

Absolutely. Mass save, as you know, is a Energy Efficiency Program that our office is intimately involved with. And it is a program that is run through the utilities, primarily Eversource and National Grid, as well as Unitil. And those programs are available to any customer within those utility territories. The programs are somewhat different if you're kind of a commercial or institutional building versus a home. But certainly every municipality that is engaged in energy in any way knows the contact at their utility and can reach out to them to try and work on ways to improve the energy performance of the buildings in that municipality. I will say that we are undergoing right now a new three year plan development process. This is an effort that happens every three years, obviously. And the utilities in conjunction with DOER and an Energy Efficiency Advisory Council develop a comprehensive three year energy efficiency plan. And it kind of outlines you know, what are the goals, and what are the strategies, and what are we going to be funding. And so this new three year plan will obviously shift our focus even more than the last one did and will really start to push the kinds of energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies that we need to be pushing in order to achieve our goals. It's not the only tool and it's certainly not going to, you know, be the end all be all. But it is a an important part of the funding process for buildings to take advantage of. There are some new elements that will be going into this three year plan. I'm not privy to all of them. But certainly we know in the legislation, for example, it requires the three year plans to include a social cost of carbon into the energy efficiency plans. This will help to improve the cost effectiveness calculation that is required for any energy efficiency project to the utilities, and will hopefully make some of these new technologies more affordable or increase the incentives available for some of these technologies. So we're excited to see what the new three year plans will bring and how they will help to continue this transition away from, you know, higher emitting fuels.

 

Lauren Stara  42:42

I really love this whole discussion, Eric, because I talk a lot in other parts of my professional life about the difficulty of change and how small incremental change can really set the stage for and add up to big change. And that's exactly what you're talking about. And I love the three year plan idea that, you know, having the big goal in mind, but putting small steps in place to get you to that goal.

 

Andrea Bunker  43:10

And our libraries often are part of larger capital plans with their municipalities, and being able to tackle some of these issues with physical plant within that five year capital plan, I think is really important, too. So libraries making sure that, you know, even though they might not have a big ticket item, like a roof replacement, or an HVAC upgrade, or replacement, you know, there are other areas that you can look at for your building to keep moving forward and making sure you're as energy efficient as possible. Are there any current incentives or future incentives that are in the works that can assist these municipalities and libraries and procuring these materials and systems that reduce their carbon footprint?

 

Eric Friedman  43:59

I think we'll go back to the utilities, I think that's always a great place to start. The utilities not only have money for technologies or projects, but also will often have technical advice or technical assistance for projects for customers. So that's, I think, a really valuable service that they provide as well. Certainly, if you're a library director talking to the energy head or energy person in the municipality, we have something like almost 300 designated Green Communities in Massachusetts. So every one of those towns has had to do something in order to get that designation. They have received funding for energy projects. And then they also are eligible, actually, any municipality is eligible to apply for competitive grants to DOER under the Green Communities Program on an annual basis to develop or implement energy efficiency or other clean energy projects. So I certainly encourage library directors, library personnel to get in touch directly with their municipalities who are managing these energy programs and find out if they can get on the list, if they can work with them to apply to get funding, if they're already working with the utilities or are already applying to the competitive grant under Green Communities to maybe include some of their efforts in that as well.

 

Andrea Bunker  45:18

Beyond the money piece, do you have any advice for library directors and trustees that are trying to maintain and improve their facilities, as this is such an ambitious goal that requires widespread if not universal support from everyone to get to where we want to be? What advice do you have for them? And then I know we talked about a separate question about the why we should be moving in this direction and the reasons for it and why it's important, because part of that advice for library directors is helping them facilitate these conversations with their municipalities and their communities. Because not everyone understands the importance of this.

 

Eric Friedman  45:59

We can certainly spend a long time trying to figure out how to best communicate the value and the importance of efforts associated with reducing emissions and why trying to change the trajectory of climate change is so important. And certainly that conversation should be and probably is happening all across the country, not to mention all across the world. So we can start with that second part, and then maybe move back into the sort of advice or perhaps smaller steps that can be done now while some of these larger steps are under consideration. I think one only needs to look at the weather we've had in the last month, whether it's here in you know, Boston, or Eastern Massachusetts, or Massachusetts or across the country to understand what climate change means for us and for, you know, our compatriots across the country. We were talking, you know, before we got on that we've already had seven days over 90 degrees, and we're not even at the end of June. And according to my weather app, we've got another four or five days next week, in a row, that will also break 90. So that's essentially 12 days over 90 before we've gotten to July, or as we hit July. That's pretty extraordinary. And that's nothing compared to what's happening across, you know, the western third of the country, right, where we've seen temperatures in June hit 120 degrees, 115 degrees for days on end. Major drought across, you know, huge swaths of the West, forest fires, you know, likely to be incredibly devastating this summer, because of both of those climate related things that are happening. So it only gets worse from here, like this is just the harbinger of what's going to happen. And if we want these changes to be less worse, we need to do something now, we can't stop these changes from happening. I mean, that horse has left the barn, but what we can do is dramatically affect our emissions trajectory, and at least temper those changes. So that, you know, we are still living in a place that is livable, and not essentially frying ourselves out of existence or having to vacate, you know, vast swaths of territory, because they're just not, you just can't live in them anymore. And unfortunately, you know, I don't want to be overly pessimistic, but unless we change and change quickly, that's the direction we're headed in. So I think the reason why it's such a delight, and why I'm so proud to live in Massachusetts, is that not everyone here understands this or believes this, but as a society, as a culture as a state, we get it. Right? And we are leading the nation in so many ways, in moving us in that direction. We are not going to stop the climate crisis alone in Massachusetts. But what we can do, like what I said about Leading by Example, is we can show others how to make this transition and how a very broad economy, a very diverse economy can actually continue to survive and move away from our dependence on fossil fuels. So that's going to take everybody playing a role. It doesn't happen by magic. You can't do it by just passing a piece of legislation. Everybody needs to step up and participate, whether you're a municipality, a private business, a college, a state government facility, we all have to play a role. We all contribute to this. And we all have to be part of the solution. So that's really the why. I can't really say anything else other than it really matters, right? We all matter. What we do matters, and that we all really have a responsibility and obligation to play a part. In terms of what we do or what advice, I mean, I think, you know, this is a pretty complex question. And I don't have the magic answer for every person out there. And it's gonna depend a lot on who you are, where you are, what the state of your facility is in, what you can do, what you can do, what are your resources? So there's lots of questions I think that I can't answer on an individual basis. I will say, you know, that there are already, you know, some relatively straightforward and easy things that people can be doing now, as we think about this much broader transition that's going to happen in the next 10, 20, 30 years. And so I'll throw out a couple of them. And you know, feel free to dig into any of them that you think are interesting. So the first one, I think, is, you know, we absolutely need to make sure that our buildings are being operated efficiently and effectively. And so this means that we have to make sure that we are performing maintenance on our systems. If we have a boiler, we need to make sure that they are inspected regularly, that they're operating efficiently and effectively or as efficiently as effectively as they can, given the technology that was installed. That's not going to move us away from fossil fuels, but it does help to kind of reduce the consumption and the use. The second thing is is that everybody should be monitoring their energy use. Now, whether that's on a real time basis, or a monthly basis, that's going to depend on your technology. I certainly recommend, if you can, to try and install real time monitoring, certainly on the electricity side, because that can really help you to understand your electricity patterns day to day. There are tools out there and devices that for you know, modest sized buildings are not that expensive to install. And you can go online and really look at what's happening to your electricity use overnight. What happens when we're close? When it's a holiday? Are we setting back? Are we reducing our air conditioning? Are we turning off lights? Or is our energy use the same at midnight as it is at, you know, 10 in the morning, and, if so, we need to fix that. Those are relatively simple fixes, you just have to go and figure out what's on and what do we need to turn off, or what do we need to set back. I also think that informing customers, and libraries are a great place to educate customers about what the library is doing, and try and make that connection to a facility that people are coming in and out of on a daily basis. You know, thousands of people every year are visiting and walking through libraries. So it's a great place to educate them about climate change number one, but secondly, also bring it home and say we are doing our part, here's what we are doing. Right? "If you notice lights are off or lights are on a sensor, you know, in the room with lots of windows, that's because we've installed daylighting sensors there to make sure those lights aren't on when we have bright sunshine coming in." Right? Why do we need lights when we've got natural daylight happening, just as an example. So it's a way of really educating folks about what's happening in their building and really making it specific to them. And then I think the last thing I'll say about this is that buildings, facilities, all of us need to be thinking ahead. We can't just sort of go day to day, we need to sit down and bring the people in a room who are important, whether it's our fiscal people, our procurement people, our facilities management people, and we need to sit down and say, if we want to do this, if we want to get to this goal, what do we need to be doing now? And what do we need to be thinking about? So when is our boiler system slated for replacement? If it's 10 years from now, because it's been in place for 20 years, and it has a 30 year life? Okay. So when do we need to start thinking about what we're going to replace? Do we need to do a study? Do we need to start design five years from now? What's our process, right? You don't wait until the year before this has to happen to scramble and say, "Oh, my God, what are we going to do?" And then you end up replacing it with the same system you had, because you don't know anything else, and you haven't spent the time thinking about it. So I think that's a really important part of the work that needs to happen. And that planning needs to be incorporated into capital budget planning. So when facilities and municipalities are planning their capital budgets, that's resources that will become available. How do you target those resources to putting on the right path? If you have a capital budget for building repairs, and you can either shift or add on to that, like, we're doing a roof repair, let's say or we're doing a roof replacement. Okay, can we add insulation to that project? Can we insulate our roof or attic as part of that project? That's one way of using the resources that you already have in hand to actually help move you in the right direction.

 

Andrea Bunker  54:23

And as librarians, we love resources. So is there a place where our library building project stakeholders can go to learn more about the climate act, about the executive order, about any of these issues that we've discussed today, or strategies that we've discussed today?

 

Eric Friedman  54:44

So yes, and no, there are certainly resources all over the web. We are in the process of sort of revamping our website for Leading by Example, and certainly I would encourage people to go there first: https://www.mass.gov/leading-by-example-program. It's not a catch all for all of this. Certainly there's more information about the executive order. We are continuing to try and build up the library and, you know, resources available checklists, strategies that agencies can use, or anybody can use really, even though the order applies to agencies, it can be applicable to anybody. So certainly that's a place to start. We do have a number of links, and you know, other sites on our website as well, that could be helpful. So yeah, I certainly encourage people to start there. And then we're also happy to talk to people even though our job is to talk to agencies, we're happy if there's a library that is really interested in doing something and they're building a new library or doing a major renovation, if they'd want to chat with us about some of the buildings that we've built, and what are some of the technologies or strategies we've employed, I think we're happy to either ourselves or bring in experts from the state that can help guide them as well. And certainly, I think I would encourage them, and I should have said this first, actually, encourage them absolutely to go to our Green Communities Division as well. They have lots of case studies and information and contacts across municipalities in the Commonwealth, where those experiences and information related to these strategies can be shared. I don't know if your listeners know, but the Green Communities Division has these regional coordinators. There are four of them across the state: Western, Central and the Northeast and Ssoutheast. And I think those are always great people to start. They're are a wealth of knowledge about efforts across municipalities and certainly resources, and so I certainly encourage people to go to the Green Communities Division, and certainly start with the regional coordinators. 

 

Andrea Bunker  56:41

That's wonderful. Thank you. I wonder if there's anything that we left out or more questions that you think is important for anyone to know, or for our listeners to know, about the legislation or about the direction that we're going in as a state and how they're part of it?

 

Eric Friedman 56:58

I think you've covered it quite effectively and quite thoroughly. I think these were great questions. I guess I would just close by giving sort of a message to everyone that we've been giving to our partners that we work with. And it's to really understand that this is not going to happen overnight, that this is difficult, and we all acknowledge that. It's complicated, it's potentially costly, and so it's really going to take all hands on deck, but it's also going to take a process. And so I think it's really important to just acknowledge that, recognize that, and not get so overwhelmed, because it's so hard that you just give up and walk away. It's to find ways to do things now, while this infrastructure of change is building across the Commonwealth. And while those resources and strategies really are, you know, coming to the fore, and will hopefully be available for deployment and implementation in the years to come. So that's kind of my parting message, I think, to everyone.

 

Andrea Bunker  58:00

It's almost like where the tortoise and the hare right? Hopefully we're a little bit faster.

 

Eric Friedman  58:06

A tortoise for now, and a hare in five years. So we'll somehow morph into a different animal.

 

Andrea Bunker  58:13

A Gazelle. 

 

Eric Friedman  58:14

There we go.

 

Andrea Bunker  58:16

Lauren, did you have any more questions?

 

Lauren Stara  58:17

No, I don't. This has been fascinating. Thank you so much, Eric. It's so great to talk to somebody who has such a depth of knowledge and understanding of both the process and what the state is doing, because it's a little tough for us in our grant program, because the buildings that we provide funding for are not state owned and operated. But we want to find ways to encourage municipalities and libraries to implement these measures anyway.

 

Andrea Bunker  58:50

And thank you so much for providing all this information, for all of your time, because I know this is not our first conversation, as we try to move more toward, you know, a better future for all of us through our buildings and construction projects and programs. So we can't thank you enough for your time and your expertise and sharing that with us today.

 

Eric Friedman  59:11

Well, it's been a pleasure, Andrea and Lauren. And I want to say that I think that one of the most gratifying parts of this job is when there are folks like yourselves who are not directly impacted or subject to the work that we do. And watching you kind of embrace this and really thinking carefully and thinking very hard about how to integrate and incorporate this into the work that you do. I think that's even more gratifying for us because it means that, you know, this message and this effort is really spreading. And that's again, the only way this is going to happen. You brighten up our day, by the work that you're doing and the commitment and passion you bring to it. So I really appreciate that from both of you.

 

Andrea Bunker  59:52

Thank you, and you're saving our tomorrow for us to have many more bright days, so thank you for that.

 

Eric Friedman  59:58

Let us hope. 

 

Andrea Bunker  59:59

Thank you, dear listeners, for spending part of your day with us. We hope this episode has given you fodder to propel discussions of energy efficiency, carbon neutrality, and incremental change in your community. Join us for our next episode, which will feature Joanne Bissetta, the acting director of the Green Communities Division, and Catie Snyder, the Deputy Director of the Leading by Example program, as we delve into the solar power purchasing program and grants available to green communities throughout the Commonwealth. If you have any questions or ideas for future topics, please email me at Andrea [email protected] Until next time, and be well.