Massachusetts a Leader in LEED-certified Construction

For the third consecutive year, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ranks among the U.S. Green Building Council‘s Top 10 in the US.

The rankings consider sustainable building design, construction, restoration and rehabilitation and, in terms of square feet per capita, Massachusetts is fifth-best in the country for projects that adhere to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, adding 99 LEED-certified projects last year.

The top four states, from bottom to top, are: Virginia, Maryland, Colorado, and Illinois.

Matthew Beaton, the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary, said that the ranking was an endorsement of Massachusetts’s requirement that all new construction and major renovations meet the state’s LEED Plus green building standard. “Clean energy is yielding significant economic benefits with 10.5 percent job growth in the last year and 47 percent growth since 2010,” said Beaton.

The standard demands that energy performance for the new or renovated building be at least 20 percent better than the state’s building energy code, that the outdoor water consumption must be reduced by at least 50 percent, and that the indoor water consumption be reduced by at least 20 percent. In addition, principles of smart growth and smart energy must be promoted.

Presently, there are 37 LEED-certified buildings in the state, with 70 percent of them certified either gold or platinum.

Beaton said in a statement, “This recognition is another example of Massachusetts’ commitment to strengthening our economy, shaping our energy future and protecting our environment through clean jobs and technology.”

The numbers bear those comments out, with almost 6,000 clean energy-related businesses in Massachusetts, employing a total of over 88,000 workers.

Beaton also pointed out that Massachusetts was again – for the fourth consecutive year – named by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy as the top state in the country in energy efficiency.

The End of AstraZeneca in Westborough

The AstraZeneca plant in Westborough has announced it will shut its doors permanently by the end of 2015. This is the final step the company has taken to shut down the plant, having already decreased employee levels there from 800 to just 180.  More employees will be relieved by March, but others will remain employed until the company closes at the end of 2015.

The closing of the facility means the city of Westborough will lose its biggest taxpayer. The AstraZeneca plant pays the city an estimated $2 million in total; $360,000 in property taxes and $1,548,547 for equipment taxes. Residents and businesses in Westborough will begin to feel the pinch of the revenue loss in fiscal year 2017.

City officials hope to fill the vacancy quickly.   The building is 420,000 square feet and could be a great site for a wide spectrum of businesses.

The AstraZeneca plant processed the asthma treatment Pulmicort Respules, which will now be produced at the company’s locations in Sweden and Australia. A company representative stated the move is to attain “increased efficiencies in our global supply chain.”

AstraZeneca will continue to house its research-and-development operations in Massachusetts, with facilities in both Waltham and Cambridge.

Medical Device Manufacturer Moves to Worcester

Cogmedix, a wholly owned subsidiary of Westborough-based Coghlin Companies Inc., recently announced the relocation of its world headquarters to 17 Briden Street in Worcester.  The medical device engineering and manufacturing services provider has become quite a success story in an increasingly important sector of the Commonwealth’s economy.

Chris Coghlin, President and CEO of the Coghlin Companies, stated “We are very excited about the trajectory of Cogmedix and the recent relocation, renovation and expansion of this world-class facility. For more than 100 years, our family has shared a deep-rooted passion for the economic success of Worcester and its surrounding communities, and we look forward to adding many new jobs in the greater Worcester area for years to come. The proximity of this facility lends itself well to attract highly skilled technicians as well as engineering and supply chain personnel as our growth continues into 2015 and beyond.”

Matt Giza, Vice President and General Manager of Cogmedix, said, “This move was made necessary by our steady pattern of growth. We really needed the additional space and these newly outfitted facilities are more than twice the size of our former location. This expansion will allow us to increase capacity to accommodate the needs of our customers, both existing and new, as well as provide improved inventory and supply chain management operations.”

Addressing Cogmedix’ growing niche in manufacturing finished laser and optically-based medical devices, Giza noted that upgrades included the installation of five purpose-built, independently climate-controlled, laser-safe test labs. Amenities include new cafeteria spaces, modern conference rooms, and a new Customer Convenience Center featuring fully equipped workspaces exclusively for visiting clients to enable a more intimate and efficient product launch experience with total transparency.

In addition to expanded production capacity and other benefits made possible by the much larger facility, the address itself has significant advantages. “Our new location,” Giza explained, “is at the junction of Interstate I-190 and I-290, providing quick and easy access to the entire region’s transportation infrastructure, including major airports in Boston, Worcester, Providence, and Hartford. We are also only about a mile from Worcester’s Union Station. All of this makes it possible for our visiting clients to arrive by air or rail and be hard at work in their own dedicated spaces in about an hour or less.

“We also couldn’t help but take notice of the rapidly growing biotech and biomed industry presence in the neighborhood,” said Giza. “Both regionally and nationally, Worcester has become well-known as a home for these cutting-edge industries, and Cogmedix is now located right in the heart of it all. We are immediately adjacent to WPI’s Gateway Park, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI), as well as multiple life science companies in the immediate vicinity, something that will surely add to the atmosphere of innovation and create real opportunities for meaningful collaboration.”


Great Wolf Water Park May Lose $17M in Tax Incentives

The possibility of rescinding a $17.2 million tax incentive package on a deal with Great Wolf Resorts is now being considered by Massachusetts’ Economic Assistance Coordinating Council (EACC) after it was discovered that the company selected subcontractors who didn’t use union labor for their water park’s  recently-completed renovation. The resort opened in Fitchburg earlier this year.

After purchasing the former Holiday Inn in Fitchburg for $66 million, Great Wolf began construction on its water park. Last March, the company was awarded $16.5 million by the EACC in municipal property tax credits, along with an additional $700,000 for related issues.

However, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters had previously complained during construction of the subcontractors using non-union laborers who were not covered by workmen’s compensation, a violation of Massachusetts state law. The union was able to obtain a brief stop-work order, but the project was completed and the facility opened its doors this past spring.

The union’s main argument is that since the company was in violation of state law prior to the awarding of the multi-million dollar tax package, the tax breaks earned by the company should be voided.

The furor has caused the EACC to create a special subcommittee to focus specifically on this controversial conflict. That subcommittee met last Tuesday to see if the tax credits should be taken away, as well as exploring whether or not state oversight of such programs should be revamped. They will then offer a recommendation to the full committee, which reconvenes on December 17.

In previous cases asking for revocation of tax credits, the issue has usually been not reaching agreed-upon job targets. The EACC’s out-of-the-ordinary move raises the possibility that they might indeed take away the company’s credits.

When asked for comment, Great Wolf says that they spend approximately $6 million with subcontractors in the state each year. They also pointed out that they employ roughly 200 full-time staffers at the resort as well as 300 on a part-time basis.

Improvements to South Station Could Boost Framingham/Worcester Rail

According to Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, Boston’s South Station is “becoming a choke point in the system and an obstacle to expanded service.” Davey placed a request with lawmakers on October 9 asking them for help with negotiating a deal that has the potential to allow the expansion of South Station.

Before the MBTA can add an additional seven tracks to the existing 13, it must first purchase property owned by the U.S. Postal Service. This piece of land has been the topic of discussions for years. The property is critical for the expansion of the station in its efforts to provide prompt service to commuters traveling through South Station.

The U.S. Postal Service and South Station “have yet to strike a deal,” said Davey, who will be leaving his post as transportation secretary at the end of October. He has asked Transportation Committee chairmen Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and Rep. William Straus (D-Mattapoisett) for assistance with coming to an agreement. Davey also mentioned that the office is interested in purchasing property that once belonged to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. This purchase would enable the expansion of the North Station rail lines with two new tracks and a center platform.

Following the signing of a transportation bond bill in April, the Patrick administration re-engaged with the Postal Service, offering to build a $350 million mailing facility in the Boston Seaport District. “Frankly, we’re a little stuck,” Davey admits. “We’ve made a number of different proposals that we thought were compelling, that made the Post Office whole.”

The Postal Service has expressed concerns that the new Seaport land would depreciate, resulting in a lower price if it should attempt to sell the property in the future.

New Balance Expands Footprint in Brighton

New Balance has started construction to place a new headquarters in Brighton, MA. Adding to the widespread sport and health district along the Massachusetts Turnpike, the $500 million project will be called the Boston Landing.

Previously the land was to be used for a Lowe’s home improvement store but due to resident opposition the space eventually ended up in the hands of New Balance. Construction has already begun on the six story headquarters designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects. The project is expected to take up to two years to complete.

Speaking about economic development, New Balances’ chaiman Jim S. Davis said, “Washington could take a cue from what’s been accomplished here in Boston.”

To go along with the fitness theme of the area and the company there will be a sports complex including state of the art training facilities for baseball, track and hockey.

“This is going to be a transformative project for the entire region,” said State Representative Michael Moran, “The jobs and economic development here will spur growth in other industries as well.”




MassWorks Infrastructure Program Enters New Round

Applications opened earlier this summer for the MassWorks Infrastructure Program – a program available for eligible public entities in need of funding to support economic development and job creation. The program opens a short window (September 3, 2013 – September 13, 2013) for entities to submit their applications for grant consideration. Grants offered this year will support housing or commercial growth opportunities that help support Massachusetts sustainability.

In 2012, the Patrick Administration awarded $38 million to 26 MassWorks Infrastructure projects. Last year’s grants supported projects requiring infrastructure upgrades or expansions in order for new growth to take place. This year Gregory Bialecki, a spokeswoman for the Housing and Economic Development Secretary, announced that there is roughly $25 million available for projects. In past years, funding ranged from $200,000 to $10.1 million.


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Access Fixtures Q&A: Is LED Lighting Worth It?

Imagine every application that requires lighting in your commercial facility. Can’t wrap your head around it? Needless to say, lighting can be a huge percentage of your annual energy costs. Energy efficient lighting like LED wall packs or LED bollard lights from Access Fixtures can make a significant difference in your energy bill.

Surprisingly, 22% of America’s facilities have never undergone any type of lighting upgrade, or it has been more than 10 years since work has been done, according to a survey in the April 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager. That means 1.1 million facilities are wasting energy—and wasting money.

You can start to calculate how much you’re spending each year by using an annual cost per watt . For example, energy is priced at approximately $0.15 per kilowatt hour in the Boston area. A walkway in a commercial area has 20 bollards equipped with 70 watt metal-halide lamps and ballasts. If the luminaires are on 7 days a week for ten hours a day, it would cost $0.55 for each watt and $770 in total annual costs.

LED lighting tells a different story. What if the same bollards are equipped with 15 watt LED modules and drivers? If the luminaires are on 7 days a week for ten hours a day, it would cost $0.55 for each watt and $165 in total annual costs. For each year they delay switching to efficient lighting, they’re losing $605—only on the bollards! By considering all indoor and outdoor lighting, the difference can be thousands of dollars.

With advanced LED technology and decreasing prices, LEDs now have a faster return on investment than ever before. Calculate how much money you’re wasting on energy costs using an annual cost per watt chart. Is it time to make a change?


Synthetic Slate Roofing Maintains Curb Appeal of Classic Mass Homes

Neponset Valley Construction, a leading roofing company based in Norwood, Mass., recently completed a new roofing project on a Natick home. After the homeowners and their roof battled the harsh winter storms, they wanted a new roof that would stand up to the toughest and harshest conditions, that’s when they hired Neponset Valley Construction. The homeowners chose synthetic slate roofing as their material of choice. It’s easily understood why  synthetic slate roofing in Natick MA is popular after hearing that is produced to stand up to hail, winds in excess of 110 mph and fire!