New Stretch Code Measures Help Cities & States Fast-Track Building Energy Savings

With increasing pressure to deliver on energy and climate action goals, cities and states are turning to more stringent building energy codes as an effective strategy to increase building energy efficiency and accelerate progress on outcomes. By adopting forward-looking stretch building codes, jurisdictions can increase the rate at which advances in building energy performance are incorporated into the building stock to meet policy goals.

To help local jurisdictions advance, New Buildings Institute (NBI) released today a set of model stretch building code strategies that target 20% better efficiency than current national building energy codes. The new 20% Stretch Code Provisions offer jurisdictions a set of energy-saving building strategies that cover design aspects such as envelope, mechanical, water heating, lighting and plug loads.

The 20% Stretch Code Provisions is one of a set of building code strategies being developed by NBI that provide increasing stringency. The set gives 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.

“Many cities and states across the United States are working to advance highly efficient, or even zero energy, buildings as a way to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions from the building sector over the next two decades,” said NBI CEO Ralph DiNola. Buildings in the United States account for 40% of carbon emissions and up to 75% in some cities.

“Adopting a stretch code gives cities and states the ability to push the fast-forward button on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector, resulting in greater energy savings and a healthier environment for all,”  DiNola said.

The stretch code provisions are designed to integrate with existing national model energy codes for residential and commercial construction, such as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1. Cities and states can choose to adopt all of the stretch code provisions, or parts of it through their existing code review process. It generally takes legislative action, or state or local code council approval for new building codes to be adopted. State and local governments can also make stretch code adoption voluntary, and incentivize owners and builders to follow the code.

“The stretch code provisions are designed to be flexible and allow cities and states chart their own course toward creating a better building stock locally,” said Mark Frankel, NBI Technical Director and developer of the stretch code provisions. Several jurisdictions around the U.S. have already adopted similar stretch codes, such as New York City, NY; Santa Fe and Taos, NM; Santa Monica, CA; and the states of Vermont, Oregon, and Massachusetts.

Massachusetts was one of the first states to adopt a stretch code in 2009, and since then more than 200 cities in the state have followed suit under Massachusetts “Green Community” program. Advanced policies such as stretch codes have put Massachusetts in the top efficiency spot for seven years running, according to ACEEE’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard released last month.

For more information on how cities and states are adopting and implementing stretch codes, and on building codes in general, please see this media backgrounder, and watch our Dec. 7 webinar on the 20% Stretch Code.


Stacey Hobart, New Buildings Institute
[email protected]

FOR CITIES AND STATES:  A summary of the new 20% Model Stretch Code can be accessed here. For the complete code language and further information and support for jurisdictions considering a stretch code, contact Webly Bowles at [email protected].

New Buildings Institute (NBI) is a nonprofit organization driving better energy performance in commercial buildings. We work collaboratively with industry market players—governments, utilities, energy efficiency advocates and building professionals—to promote advanced design practices, innovative technologies, public policies and programs that improve energy efficiency. We also develop and offer guidance and tools to support the design and construction of energy efficient buildings. Throughout its 20-year history, NBI has become a trusted and independent resource helping to drive the development of buildings that are better for people and the environment. Our theory of change includes setting a vision and defining a path forward. We then set out to create the research that serves as the basis for tool and policy development necessary to create market change. Learn more at