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Sustainable Storefronts Competition Kicks off in Chinatown

Oct 25, 11 Sustainable Storefronts Competition Kicks off in Chinatown

Boston Architectural College students revealed sustainable storefront design concepts, still under development, at an event last week at the Asian American Civic Association to mark the beginning of an innovative design competition in Chinatown.  The teams’ inspiring, creative design concepts are precisely what this competition sought to highlight.  On behalf of six small busienss owners, students are exploring building materials options, evaluating energy impacts and daylighting, thinking about overall design and signage, while keeping an eye on historic preservation.

Chinatown leaders who participated in the event spoke about the need to preserve and strengthen the strong cultural identity of the community and rich streetscape experience in the neighborhood’s business district.  The student teams are commited to developing designs that reflect that cultural identity while improving the energy performance and competitive position of participating businesses.

Project partners, the Asian American Civic Association, Boston Architectural College, and Boston Redevelopment Authority celebrated the public private partnership and substantive opportunity for students to work closely with Chinatown business owners.  And everyone applauded Chinatown for leading the charge on a new, innovative sustainability effort with city-wide implications.  The design competition is supported by a grant from the Barr Foundation.

We look forward to watching these teams as their storefront renovation designs coalesce.  A jury composed of Chinatown community leaders and design professionals will pick a winner in January.  The winning business will receive $18,000 to help implement their design.  The winning design team will receive a $2,000 award.

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Satcon Secures Sun Shot Award

Clean energy Innovation District anchor Satcon was awarded a $3 million US Dept. of Energy “SunShot” award last week.  DOE’s SunShot initiative aims to make solar power cost competitive with fossil fuel based grid power by the end of the decade.

If you could buy premium gasoline at the pump for the same price you pay for regular, you’d choose premium, right?  Who wouldn’t choose a superior energy source (no carbon solar) over a polluting, carbon intensive one if prices were equal?  That’s essentially the goal of the sunshot initiative.

In case you’ve forgotten, as recently at 2007, solar installation costs in Massachusetts were hovering around $9 a watt.  Installation costs are half that these days and panel and balance of system efficiencies are improving, thanks to healthy competition, component innnovation, and smart, market based industry incentives from the state and federal goverment.

The shift away from fossil fuel based grid power (produced largely out of state) toward solar (installed locally, some components manufactured locally) also produce substantial macroeconomic benefits.  Each megawatt of solar installed in Massachusetts generates 41 job years, $2.3 million in wage and salary compensation to workers and $6.1 million in economic activity (Source:  DOE).  Solar installations also reduce local emmissions by offsetting fossil fuel based power generation.  These reductions have real human health and economic impacts.  According to the US EPA, for each megawatt of solar installed in Massachusetts, reductions in emissions (sulfer dioxide, nitrogen oxide, CO2) generate $1.03 million in health benefits.

Satcon has been growing steadily at its location in the Boston Marine Industrial Park, adding jobs and manufacturing capacity.   Satcon will use the award to develop a new inverter architecture that eliminates the impacts of voltage variation caused by PV system generation variability.

We congratulate them, and the three other Massachusetts SunShot award recipients, on their latest achievement.

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Sustainable Storefronts Project Heats Up

As part of the Sustainable Chinatown project launched in partnership with the Asian American Civic Association, about a dozen business owners in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood will soon be linked with teams of architecture students and design professionals in a design competition to surface best practices with regard to sustainable storefronts. 

Across Boston’s neighborhoods, hundreds of business owners, often working closely with design and financial assistance from the City of Boston’s ReStore program, have made improvements to their storefronts that help attract customers, improve streetscapes, and increase property values. 

Now, with support from the Barr Foundation, the Boston Architectural College, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority, we are helping to bring sustainable design excellence to Chinatown’s famous business/restaurant district with a juried design competition in which the winner will receive funds to help underwrite the cost of construction.

What is a sustainable storefront?  Our design teams will help answer that question, and will likely explore building envelope performance, materials, natural light, clean energy production, signage, storm water management and more in the process.  Overall design excellence including streetscape context and historic preservation will weigh heavily.

Thanks to the BAC for providing project leadership and to the AACA for promoting the project generally and for providing cultural/language translation expertise.

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New Brookings Report Maps Clean Economy

Jul 14, 11 New Brookings Report Maps Clean Economy

The venerable Brookings Institution has provided depth and clarity to a long standing economic development research challenge:  how to quantify and map the cleantech industry.  The report, Sizing the Clean Economy:  A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment, charts the growth of the cleantech industry by sector, state and region. 

National cleantech employment, at 2.7 million, exceeds the number of workers in both the life sciences and fossil fuel industries, but remains smaller than IT.  The Boston region (including Cambridge, Quincy, southern New Hampshire in the report) ranks 8th nationally in cleantech job totals.  Other key findings include:

  • While the cleantech industry overall grew slightly slower than the rest of the economy through the recession (dragged down primarily by heavy construction/green buiding losses), some sectors including solar, wind, energy storage, and smart grid – where the greater Boston area is strong - grew rapidly.
  • The clean economy is manufacturing and export intensive. Roughly 26 percent of all clean economy jobs lie in manufacturing establishments, compared to just 9 percent in the broader economy. On a per job basis, establishments in the clean economy export roughly twice the value of a typical U.S. job ($20,000 versus $10,000).
  • The clean economy offers more opportunities and better pay for low- and middle-skilled workers than the national economy as a whole. Median wages in the clean economy—meaning those in the middle of the distribution—are 13 percent higher than median U.S. wages.

The report also describes the benefits of cluster strategies, importance of coordinating and aligning workforce training resources, and the importance of government policy with regard to energy and green procurement.

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GreenTown Labs Breaks Ground in the Innovation District

Jun 22, 11 GreenTown Labs Breaks Ground in the Innovation District

With its exposed plywood floors, sub-basement “dungeon” workspace, and clean energy prototypes strewn over two floors, GreenTown Labs, the newest addition to the Innovation District’s growing cleantech cluster is crackling with energy, optimism, product development, and talent.  The space conjures up decade-old images of Boston’s dot.com start ups – the interiors and appointments a shade closer to ReadyMade than Dwell -  but the young faces, collaborative vibe, and innovative products are everywhere, and the smattering of older suits (okay, I was wearing one too) circulating through the crowd at last night’s ribbon cutting prove that Boston’s business class is taking notice.   (Boston law firm Hinckley, Allen & Snyder is GreenTown Lab’s legal sponsor and a key supporter.)

If there were a biofuel shuttle between MIT and the Innovation District, GreenTown Labs would be the first stop.  Structured as a non-profit, built on strategic partnerships and considerable bootstrapping, GTL essentially serves as affordable housing for cleantech entrepreneurs who can’t pay the lease rates in Kendall Square but appreciate the Innovation District’s proximity to the mothership, Boston’s venture community, and the District’s sustainability and living lab constructs.  The founding members who made the leap across the river have been joined by other incubator occupants including wind and solar power developers, a home energy management system venture, various energy efficiency start ups, and a green trade association, among others. 

Boston Mayor Menino said it best before he cut the ribbon:  “there are a lot of great companies in Boston, but your companies are growing” and he added, “you know, one of the companies here might become the next big company, the one that everyone recognizes around the kitchen table.”

We all look forward to watching GreenTown Labs, and its member companies grow and thrive in Boston’s Innovation District.

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