Navigating the Sustainable Horizon: Insights from NESEA’s 2024 BuildingEnergy Boston

Exploring Resilient Design, Decarbonization Strategies, and the One Water Approach for a Greener Future

BuildingEnergy Boston Conference sign
March 27, 2024
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Finegold Alexander Architects, represented by Kate Theodoridis, AIA, CPHC, LEED Green Associate, and FA Energy Manager, Megan Brown, AIA, CPHC, LEED AP BD+C, recently participated in the BuildingEnergy Boston conference hosted by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA). Here are some enlightening takeaways from their experience:

  • Addressing Building Flooding: The conference kicked off with a captivating keynote session focusing on building flooding. Recent history highlights a concerning cycle of extreme precipitation events, indicating a rising probability of occurrences. The shift between periods of drought and sudden, high-volume rainfall leads to significant flooding and runoff challenges.
  • Embracing the One Water Approach: Speakers introduced the concept of the One Water Approach, advocating for the integration of water data into design processes and viewing project sites within a broader watershed context. This approach not only promotes better groundwater infiltration, replenishing fresh water sources, but also enhances building resilience and offers cost savings in the face of future water-related challenges.
  • Decarbonization Momentum: There's a noticeable uptick in efforts towards the decarbonization of existing buildings, buoyed by increasing funding availability. Attendees were excited to learn about potential funding options on the horizon, aimed at incentivizing the adoption of electrification and solar installations.
  • Embodied Carbon Reduction: Acknowledging the critical role of embodied carbon reduction in decarbonization endeavors, the conference highlighted several existing and upcoming policies and programs aimed at driving forward this imperative. Encouragingly, simple design shifts were underscored as an accessible starting point for integrating lower embodied carbon materials and bolstering building resilience.
  • Systematic Resilience: Wednesday's keynote delved into resilience at a systematic scale, urging attendees to think creatively about context research. It emphasized the interconnectedness of buildings within their larger context and advocated for proactive measures, such as designing sites to mitigate flooding in neighboring areas, regardless of flood zone designation. Recognizing that flood-proofing buildings alone is insufficient if access is compromised during natural disasters, the session underscored the importance of holistic design approaches.
  • Collaborating with Policy Makers: A call to action was issued for collaboration with policy makers as building codes evolve. It emphasized the need for codes and laws to be both achievable and beneficial for all stakeholders. For instance, navigating stringent energy codes may clash with other local regulations, highlighting the necessity of alignment between policy and practical implementation.
  • Unified Approach to Building Performance: Achieving success in constructing super-insulated, airtight buildings hinges on comprehensive collaboration among all stakeholders. The discussion highlighted the significance of Passive House Certification and stressed the importance of collective understanding and cooperation to ensure correct installation and adherence to standards from the outset.

BuildingEnergyBoston provided a platform for architects and energy professionals to glean insights, exchange ideas, and align efforts towards a more sustainable built environment. As the industry continues to evolve, these key takeaways serve as catalysts for informed action and innovation in the pursuit of sustainable design and construction practices.