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The MA Stretch Code: Reaching For More

EmmamHowe MA, United States 0 Ratings 13 Discussions 8 Group posts

Posted by: EmmamHowe // Marketing/Green Policy Development

In 2009, the Stretch Energy Code was added to the Massachusetts building code as an optional appendix for cities and towns to provide a streamlined and cost effective route to achieving approximately 20% better energy efficiency for new residential and commercial buildings compared to the baseline energy code in place when it was established. The MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and the Board of Building Regulations & Standards (BBRS) worked created the code together to reduce energy costs, cut out dependence on imported fuels, and address concerns about climate change and national security, responding to the requests from many environmentally conscious MA cities and towns. The code was then adopted by 175 municipalities in the Commonwealth, representing more than half the state population!

Unfortunately, MA finds itself in an unusual situation. Since the stretch code has not been updated since 2009, the once ambitious regulation has now fallen behind the international energy (IECC2015) code. The IECC2015 energy code provides builders design flexibility that will lead to significant cost savings while also allowing home buyers to understand a home’s energy efficiency and save money on utility bills, and it is expected to be more energy efficient than the current stretch code for almost all buildings.

In a somewhat surprising but welcome announcement made on may 10th, the BBRS decided that it will not only amend the existing building code (8th edition) to include the new version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2015), but it will outline a new stretch code and new requirements for solar rooftop readiness on residential and commercial properties, as well as new requirements for electric vehicles in development projects, among other changes. In other words, they will be taking up the energy provisions proposed in the 9th edition, and will be inserting them into the 8th edition.

However, it is worth noting that a good number of organizations and individuals are concerned that the adjustment and perhaps the 9th edition will not go far enough, especially since not all building types are covered under it (which may not be clear to people who are unfamiliar with the details of these policies). The USGBCMA (United States Green Building Council of Massachusetts), along with the Environmental League of Massachusetts, the Acadia Center, the Sierra Club and the Conservation Law Foundation, feel strongly that the code should also set simple requirements for existing buildings, set reduced size thresholds & efficiency targets for new small and medium commercial buildings, set requirements for all new residential buildings, and recapture any Renewable Energy Provisions eliminated from base code.

A public hearing was held on June 14, and a vote will be taken on July 19th concerning the proposal. The changes, if adopted, will inflict a concurrency period where either the existing language in the 8th or the revised language in the 8th could actually be used until January 1, 2017. These proposed changes will then be considered and voted on again when the 9th edition has a public hearing later this year.

In January, it needs to be recognized that MA should have a stretch code that enables communities to meet their local market conditions more appropriately rather than a code that’s watered-down and outdated. This update will be viewed as a step in the right direction as it proves MA is willing to take the steps to update and “stretch” our green building codes, showing increased determination to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goal of 25% by 2020.

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