Women in Energy Efficiency: Henrietta Davis

April 5, 2019

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting women who are leading the way in positively transforming our communities through high-performance buildings.
Meet Henrietta Davis, former Mayor of Cambridge, Mass., eight-term Cambridge City Council member, and IMT board member, who shares why energy efficiency is an opportunity for everyone, everywhere, to act on climate.


Why do energy-efficient buildings matter to you? 

The challenge of climate change is huge. We need everyone to act on climate, so it’s critical that we identify what everyone is empowered to do about it. Pursuing energy-efficient buildings is one of those critical steps.

While there are many systems that must be overhauled to fight climate change, we are in buildings every day—they are right there in front of us. Pursuing high-performing, efficient buildings is a practical way for everybody to act—especially local officials like me—because we are talking about existing technology that quickly pays for itself by unlocking significant energy and carbon savings.


What are you most proud of in your career related to energy and efficiency? 

As the former Mayor of Cambridge, I am most proud of getting the city on the path to drastically improve the performance of all of its buildings. Just like in communities across the country, our community members want to do the right thing and play their part to act on climate. So, we asked ourselves, how can we achieve the most progress in the most strategic way? Since 80 percent of the city’s carbon emissions are from buildings, working to reduce emissions from buildings was the obvious choice.

Cambridge has a plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions from all buildings in the city including public and private commercial, residential, and institutional buildings. In our efforts to go net zero, we are starting with new school buildings and designing and building them to a net-zero carbon emissions standard.

I wish we could quickly find a way to make net zero happen everywhere across the country. In the meantime, Cambridge will continue to provide a leading example for our region and guide other communities to adopt similar initiatives that can significantly improve the health, affordability, and comfort of the spaces where our community members live and work.


The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.” What is the change or market transformation you would most like to see in the energy industry? 

I want to see everyone engaged on energy and sustainability; just as climate change affects us all, energy efficiency and market transformation are unparalleled opportunities that promise benefits for us all.

I see many opportunities for valuable partnerships toward our goals for healthier environments and communities, whether working with industry to shift behavior norms or updating land-use planning to support efficient transportation and building systems. Another area of overlap that I’m particularly excited about is balancing energy efficiency and renewable energy to ensure cost-effective, reliable, and resilient energy systems in every community. Finally, I’d like to see all local governments take responsibility for their carbon emissions so that we can move toward 80 percent emissions reductions and beyond— we have to achieve this goal.

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