The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 23, 2009

Opinions differ on energy-saving “stretch” building code

In anticipation of a public forum to discuss appending energy-saving requirements to the town’s building code, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) invited Glenn Reed and Dan Cook of the Energy Committee to present basic information and address ramifications of the state’s new optional building regulation, called the “Stretch” code. Carlisle Building Commissioner John Luther and Housing Authority member James Bohn joined the discussion at the October 13 BOS meeting.

The Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards adopted the new code as an optional appendix in May 2009. Cities and towns may adopt this code to improve energy efficiency in buildings. The guidelines enhance previous building requirements to provide 20% greater efficiency. No town close to Carlisle has adopted the new code, although it is under discussion in Concord, according to Luther. “About half of the towns are going to adopt this by January,” said Luther. “Everybody’s just getting started.”

The additional costs in constructing a new 2,700 square-foot home with the enhanced energy savings specified under the code might result in an $8,000 incremental cost. The cost of renovations to existing properties will increase by 1-2%. The engineering invested to develop these more efficient and smaller heating and cooling systems does increase the price of these new models. However, rebates from electric and gas companies offset the costs over time for the homeowner. For example, Luther noted that with proper replacement of the police station water heater, a $1,500 rebate could offset the costs.

“If this is such a good economic idea, why do we have to prescribe it?” asked BOS Chair Tim Hult.

“Most people are building to this, but there will always be laggards,” responded Reed. ”This is good practice.” Reed felt that the code might bolster Carlisle’s reputation as a “green community.”

Bohn spoke up to voice his concern that raising the costs on new housing and renovation would push the costs of living in Carlisle to an even higher level. He noted that the Home Builders Association of Massachusetts opposes the code. The group also briefly discussed how the need for visits from a special inspector could slow down and increase costs of building projects. Bohn emphasized that the code would impose unwarranted and unsubstantiated costs on the first-time homeowner.

Hult drew discussion to a close, and reiterated the upcoming open meeting as an opportunity for more discussion. Luther will arrange for presentations from several builders to share their experiences in building energy-efficient homes at the forum. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito