Community Energy Innovations: Cambridge Multifamily Pilot Design

Applies planning skills to overcome persistent market barriers to energy efficiency improvements in rented housing and neighborhood commercial facilities. The outcome will be a pilot proposal and analysis for the Cambridge Central Square neighborhood that will be presented to the clients and relevant stakeholders at the end of the semester.

Our challenge -  to address the most difficult “hard-to-reach” energy consumers in tenant-occupied smaller rental housing and commercial, and see if we can create effective solutions involving city and community partnerships supported by efficiency funds provided by energy utilities. 

There will be four focal points to the plan – retrofit technology, utility incentives and financing, assessment using GIS mapping, and community-based marketing.

These are key innovation areas where the nation’s $9 billion + in annual energy efficiency program expenditures are anxiously seeking creative planning professionals in many settings: community, utility, government/regulatory, and planning/implementation/consulting/software private businesses. 

Class members will help design an innovative program, working in teams, supported by theory presentations and reflection to:

  •  identify program options, perform analysis, develop position statements in collaboration with city and utility sponsors, and then  develop detailed execution plans with timeline and budgets
  • present initial and final designs to the project sponsors, and collaborate on a publishable study and plan.


  • Tenants are diverse in ethnicity and income in the target community, as are landlords in these small properties.  In Cambridge, neighborhood, political, economic and environmental interests abound. 
  • The US Department of Energy - Efficiency Program; 
  • NStar (our electric and gas utility) has committed energy efficiency funds, and will consider funding a pilot based on the Practicum-developed plan.  NStar relationship with us on this topic begun in 2009 and has been supported continuously since then.
  • The City of Cambridge Mayor’s office and Planning Department is providing in-kind support. 


Approved for Practicum Credit