A Chance Encounter with the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code

On a recent trip to visit friends in rural Western Massachusetts, I stumbled upon an indication of the great effort and success NBI’s code team has had working with that State.  Posted in the front window of the local health food store under the tag line of “Becoming a Green Community” the flyer read: “STRETCH ENERGY CODE – Educational Forum.”

Here I was, 100 miles from Boston and 3,000 miles from Vancouver Washington, observing one of the fruits of the organization’s labor. I quickly snapped a photo for the folks back at the office. The educational forum mentioned in the flyer is part of the Town of Buckland’s effort to become a green community, which requires adopting Massachusetts’s stretch energy code. In 2009, Massachusetts was the first state to adopt a stretch energy code for buildings under 100,000 square feet that was designed to push energy efficiency to new levels.

The code, based on New Buildings Institute’s Core Performance protocol, was designed to reduce energy use by 30 percent and cut carbon emissions by 40 percent. Just 18 months later, the stretch energy code has been adopted by 53 local jurisdictions, including Boston and surrounding communities. This impressive and rapid adoption demonstrates that the market is ready and willing to adopt energy efficiency improvements many thought impossible just a few short years ago.

Energy efficiency improvements like those laid out in the Massachusetts stretch code do more than just provide energy savings for building owners and tenants who pay some of the highest electricity rates in the nation. The stretch code may actually help the economy, according to findings of a study by the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT). The study showed that 30 percent improvement in building energy efficiency adds little to initial construction costs, but shifts spending from materials to labor. IMT estimates that advanced codes such as those adopted in Massachusetts could create more than 20,000 new jobs nationally.

Several Massachusetts utilities and energy service providers, including National Grid, NSTAR, Western Massachusetts Electric Company (now Eversource) and Cape Light Compact, currently offer financial and technical support for commercial buildings designed using Core Performance. NBI has been working with Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships and the State’s utilities to achieve this stretch code milestone, and to begin the process of updating the stretch code to save even more energy and bring greater benefits to the state’s economy.