The EcoDistrict framework brings together public and private partners to innovate sustainable neighborhoods of the future. Such communities will be based on a vision of resilience, vitality, the efficient use of resources and social equity. An EcoDistrict is governed by a group of neighborhood stakeholders who are invested in making their neighborhood more sustainable through collective action. Improvements to the neighborhood might include anything from creating district energy systems to hosting community events to planting trees to improving safety at street crossings.
For Kendall Square, the EcoDistrict framework provides a platform to continually improve the area’s vibrancy through collective and voluntary actions. Over the past 30 years, Kendall Square has grown from an austere and underutilized commercial district to a bustling, transit-oriented, mixed-use urban center that is internationally renowned for biotechnology, informational technology and other innovation industries. An EcoDistrict naturally fits this fast-paced environment, building on existing dynamism and momentum for change. Those who live and work in Kendall Square have already made great strides toward sustainability, particularly by reducing car traffic while increasing development.
But there are still significant opportunities, most notably through energy efficiency and smarter energy systems. Kendall Square is a dense neighborhood that hosts important educational, economic and research activities, which all require energy. There may be opportunities for innovative energy efficiency solutions that decrease local energy use, and make Kendall Square a leader in energy efficiency. A district energy assessment conducted as part of the EcoDistrict program can further parse energy data and identify possible actions to improve this outcome.
Another goal for the Kendall Square EcoDistrict identified thus far is to increase transit capacity and improve pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Given the neighborhood’s continuing growth and MBTA transit limitations, designing strategies to meet Kendall Square’s mobility needs without adding cars to the street is another key element for sustainability. Not only does this help reduce emissions, but it promotes a safe, lively, retail-friendly environment, all hallmarks of an EcoDistrict.