Stretch Codes

Codes And Policy

New design and process strategies can be demonstrated through a variety of advanced code strategies.  NBI builds market capacity for higher efficiency energy codes by encouraging the use of stretch codes (also referred to as reach codes).

To support the use of stretch codes, NBI provides implementation guidance for local jurisdictions and utilities. In many cases, voluntary utility energy efficiency and financial incentive programs can be aligned with jurisdictional stretch code programs. During this phase NBI provides technical guidance to the code development process and assists in facilitating the implementation processes specific to individual jurisdictions.

The 20% Stretch Code and 40% Stretch Standard

NBI has developed two stretch code documents as part of the Zero Cities Project. Both of these documents present jurisdictions with a set of energy-saving building strategies that cover aspects building components such as envelope, mechanical, water heating, lighting and plug loads. This work represents some of the advanced building codes being developed by NBI that provide cities and states the basis for maximizing energy savings in both commercial and residential projects over the course of several code development cycles, allowing the market to prepare and gain experience with new efficiency practices and technologies.

For more information on the 20% Stretch Code, view our press release and a summary of the measures can be accessed here. For the complete code language and further information and support for jurisdictions considering a stretch code, contact Webly Bowles.

What is a Stretch Code?

A stretch code is a locally mandated code or alternative compliance path that is more aggressive than base code, resulting in buildings that achieve higher energy savings.

When base codes are not keeping up with advances in technology and design practices, stretch codes provide an opportunity to train the building and development communities in advanced practices before the underlying energy code is improved and help accelerate market acceptance and adoption of more stringent energy efficiency codes in the future.

Also known as reach codes, stretch codes can work in tandem with utility incentive programs.  In many cases, utility energy efficiency programs, utility incentives and jurisdictional stretch code programs can be aligned. Read More

What are the benefits of a Stretch Code?

A stretch code can align many of the relevant market actors. Through making future base code requirements known in advance it provides tremendous motivation to manufacturers and distributors to compete for future market share of what will ultimately be required products. This tends to lower prices to builders, and these savings can be passed on to developers and owners.

In addition, utilities can provide incentives and education and training efforts that match future code requirements. Besides providing logical consistency to previously uncoordinated energy efficiency efforts, stretch codes ensure higher compliance rates once the new mandatory code is adopted since a larger share of market actors are already familiar and have experience with the new requirements.

Stretch Codes in Action

Massachusetts was one of the first states to adopt a stretch code in 2009. The code was unique in that it was based more on energy performance than prescriptive measures. In other words, if a building’s energy performance was high enough, it met the code requirements regardless of how it was constructed, although certain common sense construction practices were required such as proper insulation, sealing & ventilation, lighting, etc. The stretch code was last updated in in 2016 and 2017 to ensure it remained more stringent than national building energy standards established in 2015. Cities have the option of adopting the stretch code, and if they do, can be designated a “Green Community” and receive additional support from the state as well as take advantage of utility rebates and other incentives to help the building community comply with the code.

State of New York
In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo helped the State of New York establish a roadmap toward a clean, resilient and affordable energy system for the state. The plan includes three quantifiable targets to achieve by 2030:

  1. A 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels,
  2. 50% energy from renewable sources, and
  3. A 23% decrease in building energy consumption from 2012 levels.

To help achieve these ambitious goals, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) led an effort to develop NYStretch-Energy, a voluntary locally adopted stretch energy code which offers municipalities a more energy-efficient alternative to the minimum state energy code.

Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica is leading the charge to meet California’s statewide zero energy goal for residential buildings by 2020. In October 2016, the Santa Monica City Council adopted a ZE ordinance and stretch code (referred to as a “reach” code) that requires all new single-family homes to be constructed to use 15% less energy than what the state mandates under the 2016 California Energy Code.

British Columbia
By 2032, British Columbia aims to achieve zero energy-ready status in all new construction and by 2020 will cut the expected increase in electricity demand by 66% and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 33% below 2007 levels (80% by 2050). To help actualize these goals, British Columbia in April 2017 published the BC Energy Step Code, an incremental stretch code which will ultimately lead the province to zero energy construction. Jurisdictions may choose to replace the performance section of the Building Code with the Energy Step Code.

Learn more about stretch codes and these efforts.