The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 8, 2010

Selectmen hear Stretch Code benefits, costs

When the Selectmen opened the public hearing on December 22, they announced that the General Counsel for the Board of Buildings Regulations and Standards is reviewing its authority to specify the process by which towns can adopt the “Stretch Code.” Thus, the Selectmen would make no decision at this hearing but would take public comment and would continue the hearing at its January 26 meeting.

This optional building code, applicable to new construction and significant renovations, is intended to improve energy efficiency in the state by introducing a performance-based code requiring a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index score, to be measured by a third-party and presented to the town’s building inspector. A HERS rating of 100 corresponds to a home built to the state’s 2006 energy code. Lower HERS ratings mean better efficiency and a rating of 60 or less would be required for new homes, while higher ratings would be permitted for home renovations (see “BOS considers ‘stretch’ building code,” Mosquito, December 11, 2009.)

In an opening statement Chair Tim Hult said, “We will go through a process to make sure everyone is heard. Everybody doesn’t need to speak to it tonight. You can judge whether this is the right time or if you want to wait until we are closer to making a decision. This will not be the only opportunity to speak.”

After a brief presentation by Glenn Reed of the Carlisle Energy Task Force, Selectman John Williams asked whether adoption would impact the town’s Benfield affordable housing project being developed by the firm Neighborhool of Affordable Housing (NOAH). Commissioner John Luther responded, “NOAH has designed their building so we know what it looks like. But they have not engineered it yet, so it is impossible to say how it (the stretch code) will affect them.” Luther offered the opinion that the state building code in effect in January 2010 will have all of the stretch code requirements but without the requirements for a HERS rating.

Further discussion indicated that although the anticipated school building project will be built to the equivalent of Stretch Code standards or beyond because of energy conservation considerations, the project will technically not be subject to the code because the existing heating system will be retained.

Chair Tim Hult added: “The last time we talked we saw some economies for a moderately sized house – we were interested in extending those economies to more like what we build out here – both the investment and the potential energy savings.” David Guthrey, a builder involved in Carlisle, offered some insight. He said that a house he has built on South Street is 2,400 to 2,500 square feet and has a HERS rating of 54. That added about 5% or $10,000 to the cost but will probably have a payback in energy savings in six to seven years.

Guthrey continued, “My house was about 6,000 square feet on the first two floors. That added 6% to 7% – roughly $35,000 to $42,000 but I did some advanced heating systems. My HERS rating is 46. My gas bill last month was $67. I anticipate my return on investment will be six to seven years. In the higher-end home, people are looking for that efficiency.”

Hult said, “We’ve gotten some correspondence from Mass Association of Home Builders who have reservations about Stretch Code. They raise the issue that it will dampen demand.” Guthrey said, “For a starter home I think they are right – 5% on a starter home can take a lot of people out of the market. But it is an education process. It is pay now or pay later.”

Selectman Peter Scavongelli asked, “Would you say that reputable builders are likely to comply to Stretch Code whether we adopt it or not?” Guthrey answered, “Yes, reputable builders would.”

Selectman Doug Stevenson suggested there might be no need to adopt the code since the school, NOAH and other builders are already building to higher standards. Luther responded, “Most are, but not all.”

The hearing will continue on January 26. ∆

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