Shooting for net-zero for the new Squantum Elementary School

When QCAN members heard that the City of Quincy was embarking on a feasibility study for the new Squantum Elementary School, many of us emailed and called the city councilors to encourage early adoption of design features necessary to achieve net-zero energy goals for the new school. QCAN stressed in our correspondence that it is not too early to set energy goals, and it’s NOT too early to decide to make it a net-zero energy building, as there are other communities already building net-zero schools

Nina Liang responded that “the Massachusetts School Building Authority offers a 1.5-2 percent incentive for money spent towards energy efficiency in the context of designing towards high performance certification. They offer NE-CHPS, as well as LEED, as high performance pathways in place of MA-CHPS. Also, MassSave is an initiative sponsored by Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities which offers incentives and services to help schools manage energy costs and create a more comfortable environment. Additionally, DSIRE maintains a comprehensive database of incentives for Massachusetts, many of which can be applied to schools.”

Mayor Koch thought it was too early to include net-zero requirements in the feasibility study; City Councilors Liang, Mahoney, Andronico, and DiBona brought up that they wanted net-zero put in the feasibility study due to pressure from QCAN. This issue got moved to the Finance Committee. There is an open bid for the Owner’s Project Manager, who will be hired prior to the design team being hired. QCAN will continue to monitor this as it moves through the selection process and a consultant is selected.

Looking beyond the new Squantum School, QCAN’s overarching goal is to encourage Quincy to adopt the (not-yet-finalized) Massachusetts specialized opt-in stretch code. After the Department of Energy Resources issues the new opt-in MA code, which should happen in December 2022, the City Council would need to approve it through an ordinance. (When the stretch energy code was first considered in 2010, the Council referred it to the City Council Ordinance Committee, which resulted in some public hearings; the mayor’s office then met with several developers, and the Council approved it.) Quincy adopted the 2010 Stretch Code and, as a result, is a state-designated Green Community. Quincy has received state grants totaling $1 million over the last 10 years  under the state’s Green Communities program, but this amount is low compared to other cities and towns with comparable or much smaller populations. For example, Melrose – with a population of 30,000, less than a third of Quincy’s size – has received $1.7 million in grants over the same time period. Melrose was recently awarded a $500,000 grant for a major renovation of its public library. QCAN would love to see Quincy secure more funding like this.

– Keith Johnson, QCAN board member