By Grey Lee, Executive Director

Since the stretch energy code was initially made available by the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations & Standards (BBRS) for local adoption in 2009, it has been adopted by 175 municipalities in the Commonwealth, representing more than half the state population. The HERS rating approach of the stretch energy code has also been adopted by the International Energy Concervation Code (IECC) 2015 model code. However, as the stretch code has not been updated, the incoming IECC2015 energy code will be more energy efficient than the current stretch code for almost all buildings.

The current proposed stretch energy code update aligns the residential stretch code with the HERS rating option in the IECC2015 base code, updates the commercial requirement for large buildings, and reduces the scope to just cover new construction.

On May 10, in a surprise twist, the BBRS announced it will be amending the existing building code (8th edition) to include the new version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2015), 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 only the energy provisions proposed in the 9th edition and inserting them into the 8th edition.

USGBC MA has been following this issue closely and applauds the continued success and leadership that our stretch code has provided our industry. We advocate to continue strengthening the base code and the stretch code for the communities that have taken it up. We support the expanded scope of the proffered stretch code to engage solar siting feasibility and to anticipate future electic car siting at buildings. 

A public hearing was held on June 14, and a vote will be taken on July 19 on the proposal. The changes, if adopted, will trigger a concurrency period where either the existing language in the 8th or the revised language in the 8th could be used until January 1, 2017. These changes will then be considered and voted on once again when the 9th edition has a public hearing later this year. Apparently the 9th edition is delayed for a variety of reasons and the Baker Administration was eager to move the energy changes forward ASAP.

Some components of the real estate industry remain opposed to the stretch energy code and the PV and EV requirements.

Below, we have summarized the shortcomings of the proposed stretch energy code update, in addition to suggested improvements to remedy these shortcomings. We are working with a coalition of partners to strengthen and improve the stretch code, which includes our colleagues at the Environmental League of Massachusetts, the Acadia Center, the Sierra Club and the Conservation Law Foundation, among others. 

If you are interested in reading the full letter we wrote to BBRS, it is linked below.

Shortcomings of the Stretch Code Update:

  1. Zero Requirements for All Existing Buildings. There are zero requirements beyond what is included in the base energy code for renovations, remodels, or any other kind of alterations to existing buildings, which comprise the vast majority of available energy savings opportunities.
  2. Zero Requirements for All New Small and Medium Commercial Buildings. Only buildings 100,000 square feet or larger have to comply with the requirement of modeled efficiency 10% beyond the level set by ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2013.
  3. Zero Requirements for Some New Residential Buildings. There are no additional requirements for homes which are already using the Section R406 pathway option (HERS, Energy Star v3.1, or Passive House) to comply with the base energy code.

Suggested Improvements to Remedy These Shortcomings:

  1. Set simple requirements for Existing Buildings.
  2. Set reduced size thresholds & efficiency targets for New Small and Medium Commercial Buildings.
  3. Set requirements for all New Residential Buildings.
  4. Recapture any Renewable Energy Provisions eliminated from Base Code.

Read the full letter here.

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