Monday, May 3, 2010

The Stretch Energy Code: It's Good for Brookline

Article 11 on this Spring's Town Meeting agenda would strengthen the energy efficiency portion of  Brookline's Building Code. The standards have been set to be easily attainable, predictable, and desirable. I won't go into all of the details here, for more information, please visit the town website and look for Stretch Code Information.

I believe that adopting the Stretch Energy Code is good for Brookline for several important reasons:

1) Greater energy efficiency saves money for Brookline's residents and businesses. 

Let's face it, energy is going to get more expensive. Even at today's prices, the small additional costs associated with the additional Stretch Code compliant efficiency improvements are quickly paid back through energy use savings.

2) Less energy use is better for the environment and reduces our dependence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels.

Conservation is a key component to any policy or technological strategy that reduce harmful emissions and slows our consumption of energy resources. Here in the Northeast, heating and cooling our homes and commercial buildings contributes significantly to our energy use. In Brookline, about 60% of our total greenhouse gas emissions are from residential buildings.

3) Home owners and builders achieve consumer protections, receiving verified levels of energy efficiency.

Required energy efficiency measures are determined and verified through a 3rd party professional modeling and testing procedure, or through the installation, from a check list, of specified product types and construction techniques. Therefore, the consumer, in this case either a home owner or builder, is assured that the finished building will in fact meet the energy efficiency standard. This knowledge will surely become valuable information to prospective buyers and tenants as they rightly compare the "operating" costs of various property purchase options.

4) Savvy tenants and buyers are seeking energy efficient buildings.

It is in Brookline's best interest to position itself as a community that understands and promotes energy efficient, quality building. Doing so will attract residents and businesses with long term objectives who value stability and continued viability.

5) Adopting the Stretch Code gets us closer to becoming a Green Community.

As a result of the recently passed Green Communities Act state legislation, a Green Communities Division (within EOEEA) was created. Their mission is to establish and administer the Green Communities program, whereby cities and towns can adopt certain energy conservation or renewable energy generation policies and in return gain access to grant monies to pay for all manner of energy efficiency, management, conservation and renewable energy generation projects. Access to these funds would allow Brookline to be on the forefront of implementing state of the art energy saving projects. Becoming a Green Community could benefit Brookline both directly through grant monies for projects and secondarily through energy cost savings.

Some of the frequently cited objections to adopting the Stretch Code are principally founded on a faulty understanding of the Code's applicability.  For instance it's been stated:

  • We can't afford to place an additional cost burden on home owners/businesses at this time.
The Stretch Code does not require anyone to make any changes to their existing home or HVAC systems. It does become relevant when an individual builds an addition or changes out windows or furnaces, but only applies to those things being replaced. If you choose to change one window, that new window must be an Energy Star window.  You will not be required to replace all your windows or change anything else about your home. As stated previously, the additional cost associated with the higher energy efficiency is quickly paid back. Also, there are frequently utility rebates available to help home owners and businesses make energy improvements, as well as federal and state tax incentives.
  • If Brookline adopts the Stretch Code we will drive away certain contractors who don't want to deal with the new requirements and this will hurt our competitiveness relative to surrounding communities.
The improved building practices embodied in the stretch code are already being adopted by quality builders and will be required in a few years anyway.  The resulting buildings are the ones that buyers and tenants are seeking in the market place. Therefore assuring this higher standard of building actually helps Brookline's competitiveness. As of April 28, 2010 18 communities have adopted the Stretch Code, with many more considering the option this spring. Newton and Cambridge have already adopted it and Boston has it's own high level energy efficient building standards.
  • Extra energy efficiency measures will require me to make inappropriate changes to my historic home.
As stated earlier, no one will be required to make changes or energy improvements to existing buildings because of the Stretch Code. When renovations, additions or new building occurs that triggers the energy portion of the building code, then the Stretch Code will apply. The performance standards can be met in a variety of ways, and do not require changing historic features. Properties listed (or certified as eligible for listing) on the State of Federal historic register or as part of a local historic district or designation are exempt from both the base and Stretch energy codes.

1 comment:

Mario Bertacco said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.

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