Todd Isherwood Transforming City of Boston's Energy Strategies

By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: Library Energy Project Replaced Outmoded SystemsPt. 3: Centralizing Energy Management in City of Boston Buildings Pt. 4: Making Retrocommissioning a PriorityPt. 5: Boston's EPC, PPA Plans Have Potential Big Impact

Working closely with the City of Boston's facility managers, energy department, and budget office, Todd Isherwood is making serious headway into bringing a semblance of structure and standardization to the city's energy efficiency goals and strategies. It is part of his job to determine the best way to reduce energy use in the city's buildings systematically and efficiently.

Three years ago, Isherwood wasn't sure he'd even have a job much longer. In April 2011, fresh off a master's degree in facility management from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, he accepted a federal-grant-funded contract position with Boston to develop energy efficiency strategies in the city's buildings and act as a project manager for some in-development solar and wind projects.

Fast-forward to 2015. Because of his successes so far, Isherwood's position is now permanent, and he has his own tiny staff. Like many cities, Boston has aggressive greenhouse gas emissions goals: 25 percent reduction by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. As well, its recent Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance, passed in 2013, requires all non-residential buildings greater than 50,000 square feet to report energy and water use to the city. For Isherwood, who is a part of the city's Environment, Energy, and Open Space Department, which reports directly to the mayor's office, these two city initiatives have helped catalyze disparate city departments to work towards the same goal: efficiency.

But the work is challenging, to say the least. Legacy systems abound. Data on buildings is inaccurate and incomplete. And the task is enormous — the city's buildings, including 135 public schools, 25 public library locations, and literally hundreds of other buildings in a total of 10 departments, comprise more than 16 million square feet. Isherwood, whose official title, energy efficiency and alternative energy project manager, belies his actual scope of duties, is working on his energy reduction goals in the city's buildings in a number of ways: gathering data, standardizing systems, doing retrocommissioning and energy audits, and soon, identifying projects for and then procuring a series of large-scale energy performance contracts as part of an initiative called the Renew Boston Trust, announced by Mayor Martin Walsh just this past December.

Isherwood's modest start from a contract position and only four projects in his first year has ballooned — he's now one of two go-to people in the city (along with the city's director of energy policy) helping to set the energy efficiency agenda for the city's stock of buildings.

Quiet, Please — Efficiency in Progress

Prior to earning his master's degree in facility management, Isherwood began his career with a 10-year stint at a large Boston real estate developer (Cummings Properties), "where I cut my teeth on both capital construction and building operations side-by-side," he says. After that, he put his undergrad degree in art and architecture from Northeastern University to use with 10 years at Boston's largest architectural firm, Elkus Manfredi Architects. Isherwood's unique blend of experience and education gives him a both-sides-of-the-coin perspective for what it takes to design, install, and operate capital improvement projects. This is invaluable when working with the city's facility managers on energy efficiency goals. Indeed, one of the critical strategies for reducing energy use, he says, is "bridging the gap between capital expenditures and operating budgets. We have to start thinking about how capital projects affect long-term operations."

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  posted on 2/3/2015   Article Use Policy

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