Stretch Codes

Code & Policy / 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.

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.

States Using Stretch Codes

Massachusetts, Oregon and California are leading the way with stretch code implementation.  There are two fundamental implementation options: either a locally mandated jurisdictional option (California and Massachusetts) or an alternate compliance path that is more stringent than the state-based energy code (Oregon).

Massachusetts has set a state-approved stretch code as an optional path for adoption by local jurisdictions. To date, that stretch code has been approved as the mandatory base code in about 100 Massachusetts communities.

Oregon’s Legislature mandated in 2009 that the Buildings Code Division develop a statewide uniform reach code in parallel with the regular three-year updates to the base Oregon Energy Efficiency Specialty Code (OEESC).  The first Oregon Reach Code was effective July 1, 2011, and is an “alternative compliance path” to the OEESC.


The U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Energy Codes program offers a Resource Guide for Policymakers (2.09 MB).