The Riverside project, which was unanimously approved by Newton City Council last week, will achieve a very high standard of environmental performance. A Green Newton team has been meeting with Mark Development leaders about the project for close to two years. Many of the building principles Green Newton proposed will be incorporated at Riverside.

The residential units in at least three of the residential buildings will achieve Passive House certification. They will be extremely energy efficient and the residents’ energy bills will be minimal. The remaining residential buildings will be much more energy efficient than required by the Massachusetts building code, and will come close to Passive House standards. All residential buildings will also be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) v.4 Gold for Building Design and Construction Multifamily Midrise certifiable.

Riverside’s residential buildings, and perhaps the other buildings, will be heated and cooled by electric heat pumps. Heat pumps use much less energy than boilers and furnaces that use natural gas. Since the proportion of renewable energy on the Massachusetts electricity grid is growing every year, Riverside’s buildings will be heated and cooled increasingly by solar and wind power.

Domestic hot water in the residential buildings will also be produced by electricity and not natural gas. The residential units will have electric stoves–either traditional or highly efficient induction cook tops.

Mark Development will conduct an embodied carbon analysis of building material alternatives. It takes much energy to make building materials–to mine, refine and transport them. However, some materials are much less energy intensive than others. By conducting low embodied carbon studies, Mark Development can choose the less polluting materials when feasible.

Riverside is located at an ideal spot for mass transit. Residents will be able to take the Green Line or the bus to work, and they can walk or bike to the nearby commuter rail station. At least 10% of the non-MBTA parking spaces will have EV charging stations, and 10% more will be EV-ready. Mark Development will undertake a broad strategy to reduce vehicle trips to and from its property, and will be held accountable for this traffic by the City.

Among other perimeter improvements, there will be a ten‐foot wide two‐way bicycle track along the entire length of the Development Parcel’s Grove Street frontage and continuing from the southerly end of that frontage to the northerly corner of Grove Street and Asheville Road.

The large MBTA parking garage will be solar ready. If the MBTA agrees to place solar panels there, it will be one of the largest solar installations in Newton.

Groundwater recharge and water quality discharging into the Charles River will be improved by the installation of a new drainage system, permeable paving and pavers, street trees with pits, and a rain garden.

Mark Development will fund sewer infrastructure improvements. They will also fund trails and other open space improvements.

A more complete description of the sustainability provisions at Riverside is in the Special Permit document:

The Riverside project will not just enable its residents to live a very low-impact lifestyle. It will be a model for other developments, too.

Dan Ruben is Executive Director of Boston Green Tourism and the Chairman of the Board of Green Newton.

Headline photo by Mark Development.