solar panels on roof




REALIZE-MA is RMI’s accelerator for zero carbon deep energy retrofits in Massachusetts. REALIZE-MA aims to catalyze the zero-carbon building revolution for existing buildings. We focus on affordable, low-income housing to ensure that populations most in need benefit from the transition off of fossil fuels.

What Is a Zero-Carbon Deep Energy Retrofit?

What Is a Zero-Carbon Deep Energy Retrofit?

Typical energy efficiency measures in existing buildings only result in 15–20 percent energy savings, which is not deep enough to meet climate goals. In comparison, zero-carbon deep energy retrofits offer a dramatic improvement in energy savings—they eliminate fossil fuels from buildings altogether and slash energy consumption by 50 percent or more. When combined with renewables, these retrofits can reduce building emissions to zero. They also improve the health and comfort of residents with enhanced ventilation, the elimination of fossil fuel appliances and pollution, better temperature control, reduced operating costs, and resilience during extended power outages.

Deep savings can be achieved by utilizing 1) factory-built, super insulated panels that are attached to a building’s exterior, thus reducing heating and cooling needs, and 2) all-electric, high-performance mechanical systems, which provide heating, cooling, fresh air ventilation, and water heating. Today, retrofit systems are being designed to require a minimal amount of interior work, allowing residents to continue to live in their apartments during construction. REALIZE-MA is collaborating with super insulated panel manufacturers to help them develop panels with zero embodied carbon.

To see deep energy retrofits under construction, check out this short PBS segment.

Retrofit Package Illustration

Boston apartment buildings before renovation

What We are Doing in Massachusetts

1,000 Apartment Challenge

REALIZE-MA is organizing a pipeline of affordable housing properties that will dramatically reduce carbon emissions through carbon deep energy retrofits. The goal is to have 1,000 multifamily apartments under renovation by 2023 in Massachusetts. REALIZE-MA provides owners assistance in identifying deep energy retrofit buildings. While the program does not provide direct capital support, it does share gap financing options for additional costs above a standard rehab, and it matches owners with manufacturers, designers, and contractors for project execution. Ideal candidate building(s) are those already scheduled for a major rehab. For example, a great candidate would be a 4 percent Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) project or a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion where window, roof, mechanical, and/or siding replacements are already scheduled.

Please note that architecturally significant historic buildings are not appropriate for deep energy retrofits because the super insulated exterior panels transform the building’s physical appearance. To determine whether your building is a good fit for the 1,000 Apartment Challenge, please fill out this contact form:

building retrofit

Why Zero-Carbon Deep Energy Retrofits Matter to Massachusetts

Massachusetts is ideally positioned to roll out zero-carbon deep energy retrofits at scale. The Commonwealth is in the midst of a housing crisis, which is compounded by heating and cooling extremes that result in high energy bills. Massachusetts also has some of the oldest natural gas infrastructure in the country, with one out of every four miles of gas mains installed before 1940. The overall age of the infrastructure, as well as tragic events such as the Merrimack Valley explosions, necessitates major ongoing investments in natural gas infrastructure.

While investments in fossil fuels continue, the Commonwealth and the City of Boston have raised the bar on addressing the climate crisis with groundbreaking policies, including the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap, the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2030, and the City of Boston’s Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO).

What if instead of rebuilding old fossil fuel infrastructure, we put those resources to work to decarbonize buildings and make Massachusetts buildings more resilient? REALIZE-MA aims to provide comprehensive retrofit solutions for housing that address a wealth of issues around climate, housing security, health, energy burden, climate resilience, and financial well-being. Rather than doubling down on replacing a fossil fuel delivery network that’s becoming more expensive even as the need for climate action grows more urgent, REALIZE eliminates fossil fuels from housing altogether. In doing so, residents of zero-carbon deep energy retrofit properties benefit from the better indoor air quality that comes from improved ventilation and the elimination of fossil fuel combustion in homes; improved thermal comfort; and resilience due to enhanced insulation in the case of extended power outages.

Demonstration Sites

REALIZE-MA is dramatically cutting carbon in existing low- and mid-rise multifamily housing in Massachusetts. The solutions we are testing are designed to be standardized and transferable across the most common multifamily building types in Massachusetts. The projects are achieving deep carbon savings, while improving health, comfort, and affordability for residents.

Tremont apartment building
Eva White

Eva White in Boston will decrease its energy consumption by 65% with a super insulated integrated exterior panel, all electric mechanicals, and heat recovery ventilation.

electric power lines row of houses
Hano Homes

Hano Homes in Boston will achieve Passive House by utilizing a super insulated low embodied carbon exterior insulation panel with hemp insulation. It will be all electric with heat recovery ventilation and powered with solar PV.


REALIZE-MA partners

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