Cambridge is finalizing a 43-building, 13-year Municipal Facilities Improvement Plan intended to preserve and improve a wide-ranging portfolio while minimizing costs and achieving larger goals of low-carbon, energy-efficient buildings.

“We have a lot of lofty goals,” said DPW Project Manager Julie Lynch, adding that it will take “a lot of long timelines and a lot of coordination to get there.”

The project started three years ago with an RFP for an engineering group to create and run an assessment on all municipal buildings across multiple categories. Arup Engineering and ICON Architecture were brought into the project.

The team held a series of workshops with stakeholders from the city in order to develop and define the assessment framework, which used a broad range of categories to take a whole-building approach. Buildings were assessed in the following categories: energy, greenhouse gas emissions, historic preservation, accessibility, indoor environmental quality, building systems, and fire and life safety. Building projects need to be prioritized because there is only so much money available every year.

“The most essential finding is if the building envelope has performance issues,” said Ned Collier of ICON Architecture. “That’s the first thing you want to address.”

Making improvements to the envelope can be a key factor in improving energy use, Lynch said.

The energy use and greenhouse gas goals are connected to the city’s goals to reduce greenhouse gases from municipal operations by 30 percent by 2020, with a longer-term goal of net-zero emissions. Adding solar to a building can be difficult, Lynch said, so the team is looking to strike a balance in design to fit limitations.

“We have the goal of net-zero energy on every project,” she said, “even if it is a small alteration.”

The city is working on a number of small, deferred-maintenance projects on buildings in the portfolio, including climate control, accessibility, universal design and energy improvement, and is looking for opportunities to obtain funding. Lynch estimated that the city has about five years worth of deferred-maintenance projects.

“Most think that a new building is exciting, but getting the day-to-day maintenance tackled can be really challenging,” Lynch said. “If people come up with a deferred-maintenance plan, and a capital plan overlayed that, then you can work through funding issues.”

Written by