Statement: New ‘stretch’ energy code draft released by DOER

Friday, February 11, 2022

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in Boston today issued the following statement in response to the new stretch energy code released in draft today by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER):

"MAPC applauds the high level of energy efficiency reflected in the code proposals announced, both in the update to the existing stretch energy code and in the proposed design for the new specialized opt-in code,” said Cammy Peterson, Director of Clean Energy at MAPC.

“The existing stretch code has been an option for Massachusetts cities and towns to adopt since 2009, in order to apply greater energy efficiency standards to new buildings, and 299 cities and towns have adopted it to date. The specialized opt-in code is a new optional code required by the 2021 Climate Act. Per the Climate Act, DOER must develop this specialized opt-in code to include a net zero building definition and net zero building performance standard, and be available for municipalities to adopt by December 2023.

“The reductions in energy use, particularly in heating load, that would result from the adoption of the new codes as proposed would have significant and positive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, comfort, resilience, health, and lifecycle cost impacts for the entire Commonwealth. The proposed updates to the current Stretch Code, in particular, could be a game-changer. The rigorous energy efficiency updates would result in major emissions reductions in both residential and commercial new construction going forward, in addition to the many benefits that better buildings would generate, including enhanced resilience to extreme temperatures and improved health and equity outcomes.  

“The proposal for the specialized opt-in code, however, falls short. Many cities and towns across our region and the Commonwealth have voiced the need for a robust net zero code, which their communities could adopt as a local option. Building codes are one of the most impactful levers that municipalities have to reduce climate impacts in new construction and major renovation. Many cities and towns, which are unable to adopt local building codes, are eager for this statewide option to help them to make real progress on their ambitious climate goals. 

The proposal presently does not meet this standard, instead allowing for the continued installation of fossil fuel heating systems in new buildings and not addressing major renovations. Cities and towns that seek to require that new buildings, or even certain types of new buildings, be all-electric will not be able to do so. We will miss out on the many benefits that come from avoiding combustion inside our homes, schools, and businesses, including better air quality, reduced cases of asthma, safer living and working conditions, and less expensive operating costs into the future. MAPC is committed to advocating to strengthen this new opt-in code to enable communities to construct net zero buildings now, not just by 2050.

“MAPC encourages DOER to complement the assets of this proposal – such as the inclusion of the residential sector, the focus on thermal demand reduction in commercial buildings, and the increased incentives for passive house, thick building envelopes, rooftop solar, and EV-readiness – with the levers that cities and towns seek in a net zero opt-in code.  

“A clearer and bolder net zero code could play a substantial role in moving our economy away from fossil fuels. It is this bold new code that the Climate Act, the climate crisis, and MAPC call for today.”

Press Contact:

Amanda Linehan
Communications Director