The Department of Energy Resources has released final language to update the state’s Stretch Building Energy Code and provide the framework for a new Specialized Municipal Opt-in Code.

The “stretch code” is an above-code appendix to the state’s base building energy code, designed to result in cost-effective construction that is more energy-efficient than what is built under the base code. Since 2010, municipalities have had two options: the base energy code or the stretch code. This past spring, the DOER offered draft language for a new third option, the specialized code.

The department will host a webinar for municipalities and stakeholders on Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. to explain the final code language. (Registration is available online.)

Specialized code
The Specialized Municipal Opt-in Code includes net-zero building performance standards and is designed to achieve state greenhouse gas emission limits and sublimits. This code is expected to help Massachusetts meet its goal of 50% greenhouse gas emissions reduction from the 1990 baseline levels by 2030.

In a specialized energy code community, new residential buildings have three options to comply: a zero-energy pathway, all-electric pathway, or a mixed-fuel pathway.

The mixed-fuel pathway allows homes to use fossil fuels for space heating, water heating, cooking or drying. It includes a solar power generation requirement to mitigate the near-term emissions and comes with an accompanying exemption for shaded areas.

New homes that are larger than 4,000 square feet must follow either the zero-energy or all-electric pathway.

All buildings developed in municipalities that opt-in to this third-tier energy code will be required to install wiring for electric vehicle charging in at least 20% of new parking spaces and at least one space per home in one- and two-family homes.

Stretch code
The updated stretch code language lowers the maximum Home Energy Rating Scores index score to improve energy efficiency standards for new construction using fossil fuel, solar, all-electric, or a combination of on-site energy applications. The HERS requirements have also been lowered for alterations, additions and change of use for existing homes in stretch code communities.

Stretch code changes also include added ventilation requirements (heat or energy recovery) and clarification of when home alterations require compliance with different rules.

The updated regulatory language also requires wiring be installed to allow for future electric vehicle charging in at least one space per home or at least 20% of spaces in new multifamily parking lots. The EV wiring requirement also applies to the base energy code, although with a lower threshold of at least 10% of spaces in multifamily parking lots.

Next steps
The Department of Energy Resources released draft code language on June 24, and after months of public outreach and input, the final language has been submitted to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy for review. The language will be filed with the Secretary of State in December.

The Department of Energy Resources is requiring the specialized code to be available for adoption by Dec. 24.

The Stretch Energy Code has been available for many years and has been adopted in 299 municipalities. The updated stretch code language will automatically go into effect for existing stretch code communities in 2023.

Adoption of the new specialized code will require a vote by the community’s city council or town meeting. The DOER recommends that the specialized code requirements take effect on either Jan. 1 or July 1, to allow at least a six-month phase-in period from the date of the local vote so that developers, designers and builders will have time to transition.

The DOER has published a summary document explaining the codes. For more information, visit the DOER Stretch Energy Code website.

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