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BPDA Approves Net-Zero Emissions Requirement For New Projects

Hines' under-construction South Station Tower in Boston

The Boston Planning & Development Agency's board of directors on Thursday approved roughly 611K SF of new developments, including 420 residential units, and new climate and resiliency measures.

The board approved a zero-carbon zoning initiative that would push new developments to comply with the city's carbon emission goals when they first open, according to a release from the BPDA.

The new policy, which still needs approval from the Zoning Commission, would set a net-zero emissions requirement for developments filed after July 1, 2025, that have at least 15 units or a minimum of 20K SF.

The zoning also applies to additions to existing buildings of at least 50K SF. 

"This is something that cities must do," BPDA Board Member Matt O'Malley said at Thursday's meeting. "This is the existential threat of our time in terms of climate change, and it's up to cities to lead."

The meeting was O'Malley's first as a BPDA board member. He was sworn in on May 23. He also acts as chief sustainability officer at Vicinity Energy, the largest producer of district energy in the city.

The new zoning would give new labs, hospitals and manufacturing sites more time to reach net-zero after they open. It would also require real estate developers to report their projects' embodied carbon, the carbon emitted by the construction materials used in the buildings over their lifetime.

The zoning was first announced in early May after the board revived a policy that Mayor Michelle Wu's administration pushed for two years ago, the Boston Business Journal reported.

Also at Thursday's meeting, the BPDA approved measures that would help build flood resilience along Charlestown's Navy Yard. The plan would align with the city's Climate Ready Boston initiative and would help bring new development and urban design to the neighborhood aimed at protecting from rising sea levels.

The climate-related policy is the newest in a string of ambitious regulations from the city, including Wu's adoption of a new energy code, and deadlines are fast approaching for the city's Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance.

The board also approved four new development projects.

The most notable was Hines and Calare Properties' $215M, 350K SF residential development in Allston, Banker & Tradesman reported. The project at 22-24 Pratt St. would consist of 318 apartments, 54 of which would be income-restricted units.

The project would also be all-electric and follow Passive House building models. The development overlooks Harvard University's Beacon Park Yard.

The other developments it approved were a 48-unit residential project at 257 Washington St. and an all-affordable 26-unit project at 157 Humboldt Ave., both in Dorchester, and a 28-unit development at 9 Geneva St. in East Boston.