Time for MIT to lead on Net Zero at Volpe, commit to build right before requirements

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has filed a zoning petition for the Volpe redevelopment in Kendal Square that includes a promise that future development on the site would be consistent with the 2015 Net Zero Action Plan, “without limitation.” While I am thrilled MIT is committed to following the plan, it is an empty promise, as the institute will almost certainly start building before the date when the plan will require its buildings to be built as net zero. As an alumnus and a co-author of the original zoning petition that sparked the net zero revolution here in Cambridge, I am calling on the institute to lead the way and build net-zero-ready buildings at the Volpe site.

A net-zero-ready building is one that is designed and built to the highest energy efficiency standards and minimizes on-site combustion of fossil fuels, making future transition to a true net zero emissions building as smooth as possible. This can be achieved using a combination of geothermal heating and cooling, air-sourced heat pumps, electric resistance heating and maximum on-site production of renewable energy via solar PV and solar hot water. Additional energy savings can be obtained by capturing stormwater to use for flushing toilets and watering plants.

As the world continues to experience a devastating global climate crisis, and as the federal government continues to roll back environmental regulations, we urge the institute, a global leader in innovation, to set an example and get out ahead of the net zero action plan, just as the city is doing with the new King Open School.


Quinton Zondervan is a candidate for City Council in the Nov. 7 elections. All candidates are invited to share their thoughts with readers and voters on Cambridge Day.

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