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Fossil Fuel Free Ordinance


The City of Cambridge adopted the Fossil Fuel Free Ordinance in August of 2023, and the regulations went into effect on March 22, 2024. The ordinance requires new buildings and major renovation projects to be fossil fuel free. Fossil fuel free means not using oil, gas, propane, or other fossil fuels. The requirements apply to both residential and non-residential building projects. There are limited exemptions for specific building types and specialized equipment. The Inspectional Services Department (ISD) will make sure that building permit applications meet requirements. Construction of new buildings provides the best opportunity to build all-electric. Fossil Fuel Free ensures we are building the right way from the start.


The Massachusetts legislature created a program for ten communities to implement these requirements. Cambridge was one of the communities allowed to participate. The City collected feedback from the community in 2023 and used it to shape this policy. The state approved Cambridge’s ordinance in December 2023.

Key Goals

The Fossil Fuel Free Ordinance will help Cambridge reach its climate goals, including being carbon-neutral by 2050 or earlier. Fossil fuel free buildings use clean, all-electric systems like heat pumps and induction stoves. Because they do not burn fuel, they lead to better indoor air quality and emit less pollution. This means healthier homes and cleaner outdoor air. New buildings and major renovations are opportunities to build all-electric, which supports the City's ongoing work to reduce greenhouse gases. The Fossil Fuel Free Ordinance helps make sure that these buildings operate in the most climate-friendly way possible.


What fuels count as fossil fuels?

Oil, gas, and propane are fossil fuels that are commonly used in buildings.

What are the most common uses of fossil fuels in buildings and homes?

Heating, hot water, cooking, and laundry equipment are the most common current uses of fossil fuels.

What are some examples of alternatives to oil and gas appliances?

All-electric appliances do not use fossil fuels. For cooking, this would be an electric or induction stove. Heat pumps do not use fossil fuels and are an energy efficient way to heat indoor air, heat water for sinks and showers, or power a clothes dryer. All-electric appliances can result in better indoor air quality and less pollution outdoors as well. To learn more about all-electric technologies, you can visit the Electrify Cambridge program.

Who does Fossil Fuel Free apply to?

The Fossil Fuel Free requirements apply to the construction of a new building, or a major renovation of an existing building. The requirements do not apply to existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. 

What counts as a “major renovation”?

For 1-2 family homes, townhouses: 

  • renovation of 50% of the building, if over 1,000 square feet
  • addition of 1,000 square feet, or doubling the existing building
  • change of use of 1,000 square feet

For all other building types:

  • renovation of 50% of the building floor area, or of more than 20,000 square feet
  • addition of 20,000 square feet or doubling the existing building
  • change of use of 20,000 square feet or the whole building

How do major renovation projects comply with the Fossil Fuel Free requirements?

Major renovation projects cannot install any fossil fuel-using equipment in the work area covered by the building permit. There are no changes required to areas of the building that are not undergoing renovation. 

My stove broke and I need to buy a new one. Do I have to buy an electric or induction stove or can I buy a gas stove?

No, you do not need to buy an electric stove. This does not qualify as a major renovation, so these regulations do not apply to you. You can buy a stove powered by any fuel source.

I am renovating my kitchen in my home and replacing my appliances. Do I have to buy an electric or induction stove or can I buy a gas stove?

No, you do not need to buy an electric stove. As long as your kitchen is less than 50% of your whole building’s area, you can install appliances powered by electricity or fossil fuels.

I am renovating my home, which is in a two-family home. I am planning to replace my appliances during this renovation. Do I have to replace my gas-powered appliances and electric systems?

This will depend on the size of your home relative to the size of your entire building. Your building professional will work with Inspectional Services to determine what whether your renovation requires installation of all-electric systems.

I am having my home renovated or newly built and I have other questions related to Fossil Fuel Free requirements. Who should I ask?

We recommend asking your construction professional because they will know the most about the specifics of your project. They will be working with Inspectional Services to make sure your home is in compliance with regulations.

I own a local restaurant with commercial cooking equipment. Do these restrictions apply to this equipment?

The Fossil Fuel Free Ordinance exempts restaurant cooking equipment until 2035. At that point, the requirements will apply to the construction of a new building with a restaurant, or a major renovation of a building with a restaurant.

Are there exemptions to Fossil Fuel Free requirements?

There are limited exemptions, including certain medical facilities, laboratories, and emergency backup generators. The full ordinance details all exemption criteria.

How will this ordinance make an impact on greenhouse gas emissions?

Energy use in buildings accounts for about 80% of carbon emissions in Cambridge and the City is working to reduce emissions from existing buildings, which requires retrofitting. The Fossil Fuel Free Ordinance ensures we are building the right way from the start. It prevents new buildings from adding to our overall emissions and eliminates the need for retrofitting in the future. Additionally, major renovations become new opportunities to reduce emissions.

Aside from Climate Change, are there other reasons I might not want fossil fueled systems inside my home?

Yes. Household appliances that burn fossil fuels release toxic gases into your home. A large body of research shows that this indoor air pollution has negative health impacts. Carbon monoxide leaks from gas-powered appliances can be life-threatening.

Building Professionals

Are you a building professional with questions about Fossil Fuel Free? Contact the Inspectional Services Department at 617-349-6100.

More on Climate & Energy

Learn about the City's climate goals and initiatives:

Net Zero Action Plan


Climate Resilience Zoning

Electrify Cambridge

More on climate and energy in Cambridge

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