Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

August 18, 2013

A Better Cambridge response to Connolly Net Zero Zoning Petition

Filed under: Cambridge,planning — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 6:09 pm

A Better Cambridge response to Connolly Net Zero Zoning Petition

The members of A Better Cambridge thank the proponents of the Connolly Net Zero Petition for provoking such an important discussion about climate change adaptation in Cambridge. The Connolly Petition has challenged our community to take a serious look at how we will eliminate consumption of fossil fuels and promote alternative energy use across the city of Cambridge.

A better Cambridge is a net zero Cambridge. Eliminating carbon emissions should be a primary goal in Cambridge. We believe that a viable approach to serious energy efficiency in Cambridge relies on a multi-pronged strategy that addresses what we require of new development and how we adapt existing buildings, with a focus on multi-modal transportation throughout. A key achievement will be that carbon emissions are reduced within our city through construction of better and more efficient buildings, without at the same time exporting emissions to communities outside of our borders.

While taking this serious and long-overdue look at building efficiency in Cambridge we can’t also lose sight of important community development challenges facing our city. The cost of rent continues to rise in Cambridge, and condos here are being sold for hugely inflated prices. Promoting the development of more mixed residential and commercial buildings around Cambridge’s existing transportation hubs is a key strategy in our ability to make housing more affordable for all people in Cambridge. We have serious concerns that the Connolly Petition’s narrow focus on large scale new development will hurt our ability to create the new affordable low- and middle-income housing that is now so desperately needed to keep Cambridge a diverse and sustainable community.

When it comes to housing, most research and practice-based evidence into the feasibility of cost-effective net zero housing applies to low-density, single-family homes in moderate climates like California. This is not the type of new housing we should expect or hope for in Cambridge, and there is insufficient evidence to make any conclusions about the feasibility of developing net zero multifamily housing here. This places at risk the viability of important projects like housing at the Sullivan Courthouse, for which residents of East Cambridge have been fighting. If the Cambridge Housing Authority development currently planned for Temple Street were subject to the requirements of the Connolly Petition, it almost certainly would not go forward.

In a 2012 study “Think Bigger: Net-Zero Communities” the authors, who represent the Alliance to Save Energy, the Urban Land Institute, and the U.S. Department of Energy, effectively argue that “achieving net-zero energy across an entire building stock requires looking beyond individual buildings and considering net-zero at a community scale.” They state that:

  1. it might not be feasible to achieve net zero energy in every building – this might be more realistic for buildings evaluated together;
  2. Multi-building systems offer opportunities for lower energy use through heat sharing and load diversity; and
  3. drawing a larger perimeter around multiple buildings and adjacent open space allows us to consider “nearby” renewable energy sources thus keeping buildings and urban densities in the net zero mix.

As the study goes on to explain, we need an approach to net-zero that allows for the diversity of building types, uses, and climates and also one that will not dilute urban density in favor of low-rise sprawl. We believe these points are wholly missed in the Connolly Petition’s approach to net zero.

Focusing only on new development, even of substantial square footage, will seriously limit the impact of the Connolly Petition. New construction is small compared to our existing building stock, and anything built after 2010 must comply with Cambridge’s stretch code — energy efficiency standards that are among the toughest in the nation, which have effectively increased the stock of highly energy efficient commercial, residential and institutional buildings in Cambridge without negatively impacting our progress towards key social goods like affordable, multi-family housing.

It would be important to tackle this in a more robust and holistic fashion: require developers to meet “Architecture 2030” goals for new buildings, a program that phases in fossil fuel reductions while, more importantly, targeting our biggest consumers of energy — our existing building stock. For example, this could be accomplished by specifically allocating community benefit funds awarded under new development to support greater energy efficiency conversion subsidies in Cambridge’s existing building stock. Under the Connolly Petition developers could meet net zero requirements by paying for carbon offsets — while missing the opportunity to direct more funding to key community and economic development opportunities.

From a carbon emissions reduction standpoint, Cambridge is a great place to build. Every hundred thousand square feet we add here is a hundred thousand square feet that’s not going up along Routes 128 or 495. Even a net-zero building in a suburban office park is likely to generate a far more negative impact on the climate and the environment than a building in Cambridge that complies with our currently applicable codes and regulations. Suburban construction often involves leveling greenspace and removing acres of carbon-absorbing vegetation. Storm runoff is unlikely to be carried through a separated system, as in much of Cambridge; instead, it is likely to be mixed with sewage, and treated in an emissions-intensive process. Connecting the new structure to roads and utilities generates additional impacts. Workers are far more likely to commute by car, pumping out carbon emissions, and accommodating their vehicles requires additional construction. Of course, no other local town is proposing to require net-zero construction; few even approach Cambridge’s current sustainability standards. The actual choice facing many developers is between meeting Cambridge’s rigorous standards, or taking advantage of the relatively lax rules imposed by most suburban communities. As we work to reduce carbon emissions, it makes sense to keep this broader picture in mind.

Any comprehensive plan to tackle carbon emissions in the Commonwealth would involve incentivizing developers to site their buildings along public transportation networks and proximate to dense residential areas. The Connolly petition, although clearly well-intentioned, seems likely to raise the cost of new development in Cambridge relative to surrounding communities, having the contrary effect. All carbon emissions, whatever their point of origin, have the same impact on our community and our environment. To the extent that this petition moves new construction away from Cambridge, with its high standards on sustainability, and into surrounding areas, it runs a substantial risk of actually raising the very emissions it proposes to contain. We do not believe that this is the outcome the petition seeks, nor do we think it is an outcome that most residents desire.

Focusing on net zero and energy efficiency only neglects the importance of addressing climate change adaptation holistically: in addition to energy efficiency of new buildings and existing buildings, we need to focus on other key climate mitigation strategies such as addressing water resources, resilience planning and mitigation, and innovative and integrated transportation strategies and policies that will effectively move people from their cars into alternative, low- or no-emissions transportation options.

Again, A Better Cambridge thanks the proponents of the Connolly Petition for challenging our community to take this important look at our carbon footprint in Cambridge. Unfortunately, we believe the proposed zoning takes a far too narrow approach that may effectively stall the very type of development we need to actually reduce emissions while addressing key housing/community development needs here in Cambridge.

Talking about Cambridge elections and other stuff (Aug 6, CCTV)

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,elections — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 2:32 pm

Robert Winters with Ann Cowen on CCTV, Aug 6, 2013

August 16, 2013

Suggested Topics for 2013 Cambridge School Committee candidates

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,elections,School Committee — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:50 pm

Suggested topics for 2013 School Committee candidates

1) Background [biographical, etc.]

2) Top Priorities [List about three – then elaborate below]

3) Top Challenges Facing CPS today

4) Evaluation of the Innovation Agenda

5) School Department Administration and Superintendent

6) School Department Budget and Capital Needs

7) Achievement Gaps, Meeting the Needs of All Students

8) Meeting the Needs of Advanced Learners

9) Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies

10) Curriculum and Programs
a) Elementary School Grades
b) Middle School Grades
c) High School Grades

Other topics:
MCAS and Measuring Student Achievement
Teacher Evaluations and Performance Measures
School Safety and Student Behavior
World Languages
Parent Involvement and School Councils
Enrollment in Public vs. Charter vs. Private Schools

Priority Question: What are your recommendations for meeting the needs of high-achieving/advanced learners, especially in the middle-school grades?

Candidates: Send your responses/remarks on these topics or any other topics of your choice to or by mail to 366 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139. All of the information provided is helpful to voters, journalists, and organizers of candidate forums and similar events. You can add more information or change the content of your Candidate Page any time up to Election Day.

Cambridge Candidate Pages – 2013

2013 Campaign Event Listings and Candidate Forums
[Send event listings to]

Suggested Topics for 2013 Cambridge City Council Candidates

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,City Council,elections — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:44 pm

Suggested topics for 2013 City Council candidates

1) Background [biographical, etc.]

2) Top Priorities [List about three and elaborate below]

3) Land Use, Planning, Zoning, Density

4) Economic Development and Commerce

5) Housing

6) Energy, the Environment, and Public Health

7) Traffic, Parking, and Transportation

8) Open Space, Parks, and Recreation

9) Municipal Finance (budget, assessments, property taxes, etc.)

10) Quality of Life and Public Safety

Other topics:
Civic Participation
Government and Elections, Plan E Charter
City Manager
University Relations
Youth Programs, Senior Programs
Arts and Public Celebrations
Cambridge Public Schools
Future of the Foundry Building

Priority Question: What is your vision for Central Square over the next decade?

Candidates: Send your responses/remarks on these topics or any other topics of your choice to or by mail to 366 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139. All of the information provided is helpful to voters, journalists, and organizers of candidate forums and similar events. You can add more information or change the content of your Candidate Page any time up to Election Day.

Cambridge Candidate Pages – 2013

2013 Campaign Event Listings and Candidate Forums
[Send event listings to]

August 13, 2013

Cambridge Arts Council Announces Launch of its 2014 Grant Cycle

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:03 am

New applications and guidelines

Grant Program Community Meeting and Info Session
Monday, August 19th, 6-8pm, 344 Broadway, 2nd Floor Conference Room

Grant Writing Workshop
Monday, September 23rd, 6-8pm, 344 Broadway, 2nd Floor Conference Room

Grant Submission Deadline
Tuesday, October 15th, 5:00pm

Cambridge Arts Council
City Hall Annex
344 Broadway, 2nd Fl.
Cambridge, MA 02139

The Cambridge Arts Council is supported in part by the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, New England Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts and many corporate and individual donors. The Cambridge Arts Council exists to ensure that the arts remain vital for people living, working, and visiting Cambridge.

Dima Snow, 2012 CAC Grant Recipient
Dima Snow, 2012 CAC Grant Recipient

August 8, 2013

Cambridge Candidate 2013 Match Game

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,City Council,elections,School Committee — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 10:45 am

Cambridge Candidate 2013 Match Game (PDF)

Can you match the candidate names, occupations, and birthdates? The list includes all 34 City Council and School Committee candidates.

August 7, 2013

Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project -MBTA Red Line Weekend Diversion – August 10 and 11

Filed under: Cambridge,transportation — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 6:14 pm

Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation

On Saturday, August 10 and Sunday, August 11, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will close the Longfellow Bridge to all motor vehicle travel, except MBTA buses. The closure is to implement an MBTA Red Line diversion related to bridge construction. Buses will replace Red Line trains for service between Kendall/MIT Station and Park Street Station, with a stop at Charles/MGH Station. [Map of bus route and stops]

Bus service will be in place for Boston and Cambridge-bound Red Line customers from the start of service on Saturday, August 10 to the end of service on Sunday, August 11. Red Line trains will resume service on Monday morning. The diversion is necessary for MassDOT’s design/build contractor, White-Skanska-Consigli JV, to perform work in close proximity to the Red Line tracks that is not allowed during MBTA service hours. Please visit the MBTA’s service updates webpage for additional information.

MBTA buses will be the only motor vehicles permitted on the bridge. All other motor vehicles including passenger vehicles, trucks and all other buses will need to use one of two routes shown on the attached detour map to reach Boston. One route uses Memorial Drive westbound to make a U-turn at Ames Street for access to Memorial Drive eastbound to Land Boulevard and Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) to reach Leverett Circle. A second route uses 3rd Street and Binney Street to reach Land Boulevard. Truck restrictions are in place for Memorial Drive. [Map]

Emergency response, bicycle and pedestrian access will be maintained across the bridge during this weekend diversion. Please note: Bicyclists will be asked to walk their bikes on the sidewalk across the Longfellow Bridge to ensure the safety of all bridge users.

The Cambridge-bound detour remains in place using a signed route from Charles Circle following Charles Street to Leverett Circle, Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Charles River Dam Road and Edwin H. Land Boulevard. [Map]

For more information on the project and traffic management plans, visit the website at For questions, to report issues and concerns related to construction or to be added to the project email distribution list, please call the project hotline at 617-519-9892 or email

August 6, 2013

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School Renovation Achieves LEED® Gold Certification

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 6:34 pm

Design provides greater sustainability and improved space utilization

Aug 6, 2013 – The City of Cambridge is proud to announce that the comprehensive renovation project for Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) has earned LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Designed by HMFH Architects, Inc., the highly visible 400,000 square foot high school fulfills the City’s ambitious sustainability goals through substantial reductions in energy consumption and water use, and significant increases in indoor environmental quality, natural ventilation and daylighting.

The sustainable design strategy for the three-building complex, which was originally constructed in 1932 and expanded in 1978, includes a chilled beam HVAC system – well-suited to incorporation in existing concrete frame buildings—and a rooftop photovoltaic array. These retrofits, coupled with high-efficiency lighting fixtures and daylighting contribute to the school’s net energy savings, lowering the operating costs by more than $335,000 annually, and reducing energy use by more than 1.3 million KWh of electricity and nearly 44,000 therms of natural gas.

Monitors in the lobby displaying real-time energy data and a small rooftop garden tie environmental stewardship to the curriculum and provide educational opportunities for the school’s 1,800 students. Other visible features include low-flow fixtures that provide an annual savings of 1.3 million gallons of water, operable windows and outdoor bike racks. Beneath the playground for the onsite daycare center, a rainwater collection tank stores runoff from the roof and is used to irrigate the landscaping, eliminating potable water use.

While achieving high points in the categories of Sustainable Sites, Energy and Atmosphere and Water Efficiency, the project was cited with exemplary performance for construction waste management by diverting 95% of waste from landfills back into the manufacturing process. The revitalization and refresh of classrooms and shared core spaces required careful selection of finishes; recycled and low-VOC materials, FSC-certified wood, and durable rubber flooring that requires no harsh cleaning chemicals, contribute to the overall indoor air quality to provide a healthy learning environment.

The renovated school, which shares its urban site with two other City-owned LEED Silver buildings – War Memorial Recreation Center, also an HMFH design, and the Cambridge Public Library – completes the civic campus of sustainable buildings and aligns with the City’s sustainability initiatives.

CRLS Exterior

"As far as we know, less than 10 renovated school buildings nationwide have achieved LEED Gold, so we are especially proud," said Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi. "This project is a perfect example of what can be achieved with civic commitment and strong community support. It also validates and expands our city-wide efforts to manage all of our resources in the most sustainable way. The revitalization of CRLS represents an ongoing commitment to modernize our educational facilities, to promote the highest levels of learning and achievement for all students, and to reduce our community’s carbon footprint."

CRLS Computer Lab

The City and the CRLS Project Manager worked closely with its architects, utilizing their expertise in both educational environments and sustainable design, to turn this project from a basic reconstruction into a stunning example of how to integrate 21st century learning and environmental responsibility. This effort resulted in improved classrooms, library and teaching facilities, and corridors with new windows, flooring and wall finishes. Additionally, the renovation also enlivens common areas and provides clear circulation and more internal transparency. The re-designed science core includes larger labs that accommodate teaching areas as well as space for experiments, and the theater is redesigned and equipped for live broadcasts.

The City of Cambridge is proud to have worked with HMFH Architects, Inc., a local firm that has been in business since 1969 on two award winning renovated municipal buildings that serve as models for sustainable and healthy community development.

CRLS Panorama - photo by Ed Wonsek
CRLS Panorama – photo by Ed Wonsek
« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress