By Anthony Lucivero, Advocacy Fellow


On January 12th, 2016, the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) held their monthly meeting. The BBRS has authority over building codes and regulations under Massachusetts General Laws, thus giving the board great influence over the effort to green our building infrastructure. The USGBC Massachusetts Chapter attended to see a presentation by the Department of Energy Resources on the stretch energy code.

Brief History of the MA Stretch Energy Code

The stretch energy code was an important aspect of the Green Communities Act passed in 2008.  It sought to cut energy use by 30% and carbon emissions by 40% compared to the base code.  The stretch code allowed municipalities to acquire incentives from the state by achieving energy efficiency. The stretch energy code was a great success, with 161 Massachusetts communities voluntarily adopting the stretch code as of November 3rd, 2015.

However, when the base building code was updated to International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) 2012, the stretch code was not updated along with it, rendering it effectively obsolete.  The current provisional stretch code now only applies to new commercial construction projects, and only those larger than 100,000 square feet.  For residential construction, the formerly voluntary scoring of a 55 or less on the HERS Index was made mandatory, so homes already using this option would not see any additional requirements.  This is a problem because 98% of Massachusetts’s buildings would no longer be subject to any energy efficiency stretch goals.

Department of Energy Resources Presentation to BBRS 1/12/15

Mr. Ian Finlayson of the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) proposed updating the stretch energy code, and included provisions for all new buildings to be ready for solar PV and electric vehicle charging station installation. These proposed updates met resistance from some BBRS board members.  

In a series of questions, one of the members held that the solar-ready disclosure provisions were too burdensome for developers, and would drive prospective businesses out of the state. This was despite Mr. Finlayson explaining how the solar requirements worked around building designs and restrictions and do not require any design changes, only disclosure.  Others at the hearing also took issue with 4% of parking spaces being reserved for electric vehicle charging stations, feeling it would be unfair to the disabled community who have only won 2% of parking spaces to be designated for them.  

Due to time constraints, the stretch code provision was not discussed, but these proposed codes will be open to a public hearing (date to be determined). Emily Norton, the Massachusetts Chapter Director of the Sierra Club, quickly spoke in support of DOER’s code provisions and how they represent a step forward in reaching Massachusetts’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

You can read more about the Green Communities Act here and here. More information on the MA stretch energy code is available here.


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