Improving Building Codes to Prepare for Climate Impacts

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Improving Building Codes to Prepare for Climate Impacts

Clean Energy

Building Codes for Climate

BACKGROUND

Massachusetts municipalities can help support their residents' health and safety and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the adoption and enforcement of state building codes. These codes set forth essential energy policies, setting minimum efficiency requirements for a variety of building practices and technologies used in new construction and major renovations.

With the Green Communities Act of 2008, Massachusetts created an option for municipalities to adopt a Stretch Energy Code. Over 75% of all Commonwealth cities and towns have adopted the Stretch Code. As buildings account for over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions across Massachusetts, and much more in many cities and towns in Greater Boston, more energy efficient building codes are valuable in mitigating climate change. Energy efficient buildings also provide numerous co-benefits, including enhanced resilience, improved public health, cost savings, and local workforce development opportunities.

Update on the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)

Thank you to all of the municipalities in Massachusetts and nationwide who participated in the online IECC vote. Great news: the International Code Council (ICC) has validated the vote, and you can see the preliminary results here. Due to your strong efforts, the new 2021 IECC stands to be at least 10% more efficient than the 2018 code!

Upcoming Opportunities to Participate in Improving the Building Energy Code:

Local: Submit comments to the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) by June 1, 2020, or attend an upcoming regular meeting.

  • The Public Comment Hearing on May 12th included two proposals for a Net Zero Stretch Code: the AIA Zero Code and the Energy-Zero (E-Z) Code, developed by the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, technical experts, and other partners, including MAPC, with the goal to add efficiency and electrification to the Zero Code and strengthen its renewables provisions for Massachusetts. You can read the E-Z Code proposal here.
  • The participation of municipal staff and local elected officials from across the Commonwealth enables municipal perspectives to inform the discussion. A robust net zero code can support and accelerate progress toward community climate and energy goals.
  • ACTION ITEM: We encourage municipal stakeholders to submit written comments, whether or not you attended the public hearing, to show your support and your community’s need for a net zero code. Access more background information and guidance for submitting written comments here.
  • ACTION ITEM: We’re seeking communities who would like to comment or participate in future meetings! The next BBRS Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) meeting is also Monday June 1st. Net zero codes will likely be discussed. See below for how to access it, and let us know if you might like to participate in this or future meetings. Email Nicole Sanches at nsanches@mapc.org.

National: Share feedback with the ICC in support of the online process in 2019 for voting on the IECC.

      • It is important to share why municipal voices from across the country are needed in this process, the importance of the IECC in advancing the Commonwealth’s building energy code and climate goals, and how the online process enabled widespread engagement that could not have occurred if the voting were only in-person.
      • ACTION ITEM: To obtain guidance, please contact Nicole Sanches.

We value your feedback on energy codes and our efforts so far. Please take a few minutes to fill out our survey if you have not already done so.

On This Page


Take Action Today

  • Background
  • Attending BBRS and EAC Meetings
  • Upcoming Meetings

Codes for Climate

  • Stretch Energy Code
  • Train Inspection Services Staff

Resources

Questions?

For more information on building codes, contact Nicole Sanches at nsanches@mapc.org or 617-933-0761.

PARTICIPATE IN IMPROVING THE STATE ENERGY CODE

BACKGROUND

The Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) adopts international codes with Massachusetts-specific amendments to form the Massachusetts Building Code. Municipal staff, elected officials, and the public can attend the Board’s regular meetings and provide testimony at the biannual public hearings in May and November.

After hearing from stakeholders, particularly municipalities, in 2019, the Board and its Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) have taken up the process of reviewing what a Net Zero code would look like for Massachusetts. This is an important and exciting conversation, and we urge municipalities to participate. Key ways to engage include attending meetings, providing oral and written testimony, and submitting comments.

MAPC has been supporting municipalities in coordinating education on and participation in this process. Municipal voices from across the Commonwealth are critical in providing feedback to the Board and the State about the importance of a deeply energy-efficient building code that leverages renewable energy and electrification. To access more background information and guidance on providing written comments to the Board in response to the May 12th BBRS Public Hearing by June 1st, click here.

If you are generally interested in participating, providing testimony, or submitting a comment letter, contact Nicole Sanches at nsanches@mapc.org or by phone at (617) 933-0761.

 

How to Participate in Meetings

  1. Verify the meeting location and agenda online; we’d appreciate it if you could also let MAPC know that you plan to attend.
  2. Plan to arrive early to sign into the meeting. Some agenda items may take longer than expected.
  3. In Public Hearings, you can speak to any topic. During regular meetings, you may be able to speak to a particular agenda item or proposal that you are interested in.
  4. Provide written testimony or comment letters to the board at least one week before the next meeting, if possible, if you would like the topic included on the agenda. You can also submit comments within a few weeks after the meeting to enter them into the record for consideration on a particular topic.

Attending BBRS and EAC Meetings

The BBRS and EAC meetings are great ways to communicate with the Board about the green building efforts your municipality has undertaken or would like to see at the State level. It is very helpful for the BBRS to hear directly from a diverse range of municipalities so that our state amendments and code accurately represent local communities. Additionally, we anticipate discussions on Net Zero codes to occur at the next few BBRS and EEA meetings. See below for how to participate.

Upcoming Meetings

Due to social distancing measures in Massachusetts, the format and timing of these meetings is in flux. Meetings will occur virtually for the time being. We will keep you posted as we learn more.

Meeting Date Location
Energy Advisory Committee Meeting June 1 Meeting Link Dial in by phone US (Toll Free): 1 866 899 4679 Access Code: 949-867-901.
BBRS Meeting June 9 To be held virtually
Energy Advisory Committee Meeting July 6 To be held virtually
BBRS Meeting July 14 Division of Professional Licensure: 50 Maple Street Milford 01757
Energy Advisory Committee Meeting August 3 Division of Professional Licensure: 50 Maple Street Milford 01757
BBRS Meeting August 11 Division of Professional Licensure: 50 Maple Street Milford 01757

 

codes for climate

Creating energy efficiency compliance options within state building and energy codes is one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our region. An energy efficient code should be a tool in any municipality's toolbox when seeking to make progress toward Net Zero or other climate-related targets.

Massachusetts communities generally cannot go beyond the building code to set building energy standards or requirements in their zoning. This effectively sets the code as a ceiling for efficiency when it is meant to serve as a floor. Though municipalities cannot directly amend the building energy code, there are some important steps your community can take to create a more efficient code:

Adopt the Stretch Energy Code

Adopt the Stretch Energy Code, if you have not already. Taking this step is one of the five criteria required to becoming designated as a Green Community, enabling access to grant funds for municipal energy efficiency projects. The Stretch Code also promotes more efficient construction in your community and sends a message to developers that your plan review will look for energy efficient design.

Train Inspectional Services Department Staff

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and other organizations host periodic trainings on some of the energy efficiency considerations in the Code. As there are many different technologies used in high performing buildings, it can be helpful to have ongoing trainings for ISD staff. When inspectors have a good understanding of how a technology works, they better know what to look for in a plan review, and can better ensure residents and businesses are getting a safe installation at inspection.

Comment on Local Code Adoption

The Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) adopts the new international building codes and approves Massachusetts-specific amendments, in consultation with the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), to create the state building energy code. Submitting comments or speaking at public hearings on the code is a way to lend your community’s voice to encourage an updated stretch code and a more efficient base code.

Vote on the IECC

Municipalities can directly vote for more energy efficiency measures to be included in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the model energy code that the BBRS is required to adopt in Massachusetts every three years as it is updated.

2021 IECC Results

BACKGROUND

MAPC partnered with the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC), the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP), the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN), and the Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter to encourage Massachusetts municipalities to vote and have a voice in the creation of a more energy efficient and climate-smart 2021 International Energy Conservation Code.

On April 8, 2020, the International Code Council (ICC) certified and published the results of the Online Governmental Consensus Vote, the process by which municipalities nationwide voted on the IECC.

The vast majority of energy-efficiency proposals that Massachusetts municipalities supported were approved. This is great news! These include zero energy appendices; improvements in building envelopes, enclosures, and ventilation; and cost-effective readiness measures to ease conversion to electric vehicles and building electrification, among others.

The combination of these changes will lead to at least a 10% increase in efficiency over the 2018 IECC, and more efficient buildings for every community in Massachusetts. This result demonstrates that the votes of cities and towns – and all of the time and effort from municipalities who registered and voted – made a meaningful difference. It also shows that municipalities and other public officials largely concurred nationwide.

While the changes accomplished in this code cycle are a necessary improvement in energy efficiency over the 2018 cycle, they do not get our buildings all the way to net zero on their own. We will be working on improvements to the Massachusetts State Building Energy Code to make additional progress. Nationwide, there is no ICC code vote in 2020, but codes will come up for vote again in subsequent years, so stay tuned!

Upcoming Code Cycles

The suite of codes that the International Code Council develops, called the I-Codes, are voted on in three cycles; the next time the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) vote will come up will be 2022. Municipalities can plan to be ready to vote in the next cycles in 2021 and 2022, or can follow and participate in the development of code proposals at the national scale during any cycle by working on or submitting code proposals to the International Code Council. Let us know if this is something your community is interested in.

Who is Eligible?

According to the International Code Council’s by-laws, the following people are eligible to register as ICC members and vote on the IECC:

“Voting Representatives must be employees or officials of that Governmental Member and are actively engaged full or part-time in the administration, formulation or enforcement of laws, regulations or ordinances relating to public health, safety and welfare.”

A population of less than 50,000 has 4 voters per governmental members, between 50,000 and 150,000 has 8, and over 150,000 has 12.

Governmental Member Voting Representatives: The individual voters within the Governmental Member.

Primary Representative: An individual voter within the Governmental Member, who must have registered to vote by March 29, 2019. The primary representative is responsible for designating and registering the remaining Governmental Member Voting Representatives (GMVRs) within their group. GMVRs must have been registered by September 23, 2019.

Resources

Voting Guides

MAPC used expert nationwide recommendations to build our Massachusetts-specific voting guide

Massachusetts-specific Voting Guide

Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has also prepared comprehensive voting guides for both the residential and commercial 2021 IECC code proposals.

DOER Residential Code Voting Guide

DOER Commercial Code Voting Guide

The Massachusetts Supplemental IBC, EBC, and IgCC voting guide covers code proposals outside of the IECC that are important to Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Supplemental IBC, EBC, and IgCC voting guide

The Energy Efficient Codes Coalition voting guides provide provide an analysis for the code proposals on the ballot for the 2021 IECC.

EECC Top Priority Voting Guide

EECC Comprehensive Commercial Voting Guide

EECC Comprehensive Residential Voting Guide

You can also check out resources from the New Buildings Institute (NBI) on helpful voting tips and the top impact proposals.

 

Useful Links and Websites

Energy-Efficient Codes Coalition Website

The Energy-Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC) is working with MAPC on this cycle of the International Energy Conservation Code. Their website has some great resources for municipalities interested in learning more about this code cycle and beyond.

Codes Carbon Calculator from the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition

Download this calculator to explore expected carbon emission reductions and energy savings anticipated for our region when we update to new code cycles.