Mayor Thomas Menino announced last Friday his plan to spend $63 million over three years to retrofit one third of The Boston Housing Authority’s federally supported public housing units. The task is charged to a local Framingham-based energy firm, Ameresco, who’s CEO claims that once the loans are repaid, taxpayers can expect to save approximately $7 million in annual utility costs. And that $63 million isn’t even the half of it, The Boston Globe’s Andrew Ryan adds, “The energy upgrades are part of a larger, $238 million upgrade that McGonagle described as the ‘single largest capital improvement in the 75-year history of public housing in this city.’ Funding for the overall project includes $73 million in federal stimulus money and $102 million from bonds and the agency’s capital budget.” That’s a big chunk of change, so what exactly are we getting for $63 million?
The refurbishing will happen in plumbing systems and toilets, saving thousands of gallons of water, electricity and lighting, increasing efficiency, and heating systems and oil heaters, which will be replaced with natural gas, saving space as well as money. At the Lenox Street development in the South End, sticky black tar roofs will be replaced with solar panels white surfaces that reflect the heat. In Roxbury’s Torre Unidad development, a natural gas cogenerator will heat hot water and provide enough electricity to power 33 single-family homes. The Bromley-Heath development in Jamaica Plain will be recieving $11.5 million alone, refurbishing its bathroom fixtures, heaters, and thermostats.
Douglas Foy, a specialist on energy and the environment who was a Cabinet secretary in Governor Mitt Romney’s administration, claims that buildings are the largest consumers of the world’s energy, more so than airplanes, sport utility vehicles, and other modes of transportation. Foy believes that building’s enormous energy appetite stems from inefficient heating and cooling systems inside of an already poorly designed building. Boston’s retrofitting project will renovate 4,300 apartments in 13 seperate Boston Housing Authority developments, and according to our mayor, “It’s the nation’s largest public housing energy performance contract, right here in Boston.”
What do you think? Will the project pay off down the road or will it stall like the Big Dig?
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For the full Globe article, click here.