Sustainable Development

Interior of Genzyme building with reflective panels
Interior of Genzyme building with reflective panels

Cambridge’s policies for development are aimed to promote energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare and adapt to the effects of climate change, and support best practices for overall environmental performance.

The City’s planning and development policies include an array of regulations, guidelines, and plans intended to promote sustainability objectives. These include:

  • Article 22 of the Zoning Ordinance, promotes environmentally sustainable and energy-efficient design and development practices. The regulations apply to new construction and to renovation projects of a significant size.
  • The Green Building Requirements in Article 22.2 ensure that major new projects and substantially rehabilitated buildings in the City of Cambridge are planned, designed and constructed in a sustainable way so as to minimize adverse environmental impacts. This review applies to projects of 25,000 square feet or more.
  • The Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) requires owners of parcels with non-residential buildings totaling 25,000 square feet or more or 50 or more residential units to track and report annual energy use to the City and publicly disclose the data.  The ordinance also covers municipal buildings of 10,000 square feet or more.
  • The Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code, adopted by Cambridge, which requires enhanced energy performance above the mandatory base building code.
  • The Net Zero Action Plan, sets a framework for neutralizing annual greenhouse gas emissions from buildings throughout the City by 2050.  The Net Zero Task Force is conducting a comprehensive 5-Year Review of the Plan.
  • The new Climate Resilience Zoning sets new standards to address the long-term impacts of increased flooding and heat from climate change. 

Municipal Buildings

In accordance with the Net Zero Action Plan, since 2015 new municipal buildings and major renovations have achieved “net zero-ready.” This means that they are highly energy efficient and consume no fossil fuels on-site for normal building operations. Beginning in 2020, new municipal buildings have achieved “net zero emissions,” which means that all of their energy needs for normal building operations come from carbon-free energy sources.

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