- Northampton officials will discuss the possibility of adopting Massachusetts’ Municipal Opt-in Specialized Stretch Energy Code for future construction in the coming weeks.
- In a move toward carbon neutrality, the specialized stretch code aims to achieve net-zero buildings by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to all-electric buildings during new construction.
- Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra, alongside Councilors Rachel Maiore of Ward 7 and Alex Jarrett of Ward 5, is sponsoring the order for Northampton to adopt the code, which the city council voted to advance in June.
The new base-energy code aims to ensure that new building construction aligns with the state’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, according to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.
Developers have raised concern that such codes will escalate building costs across the state. During a council meeting on June 15, however, Northampton City Councilor Maiore asserted that the specialized stretch code is cost-effective and that the city would benefit from its implementation, as reported in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Maiore pointed to savings that can be achieved by pre-electrifying buildings and removing the need to retrofit them, according to The Reminder.
The code does not actively prohibit the use of fossil fuels like gas, propane and biomass, but the DOER mandates on-site solar installations and wiring in new buildings using fossil fuels. That requirement is intended to facilitate an easier transition to all-electric buildings during new construction.
Under the updated stretch code, offices and schools over 20,000 square feet are required to use a new Thermal Energy Demand Intensity pathway. High-ventilation buildings like labs and hospitals can continue to use a 10% better than ASHRAE appendix G pathway or opt for the TEDI pathway. Small commercial buildings under 20,000 square feet will be able to continue their compliance through an updated prescriptive pathway, or can alternatively choose to use the TEDI pathway.
The current phased-in stretch code provides a rating of 52/55 under its Home Energy Rating System. But, starting 2024, the new opt-in specialized stretch code requires that all electrified buildings meet a HERS rating of 42 or 45 depending on building systems, according to Mass.gov. That reflects a roughly 20% reduction from original building requirements.
The DOER finalized the opt-in specialized stretch energy code in late 2022. As of January, 300 out of 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts had joined the program. Earlier in July, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced that the city will be adopting the specialized stretch code to deflect from fossil fuel use in new construction. And earlier this year, Brookline and Watertown became the first cities in Massachusetts to adopt the building code.
Separately, Cambridge is amending its Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance to meet net-zero targets by 2050 with an aim to rein in emissions by about 50% from current levels by 2030.
To adopt the code, Northampton is required to pass an order at a future City Council meeting. The council said it would hash out the nuances of the code at a Legislative Matters meeting on July 10, but that meeting was canceled.