Selectboard waiting to adopt Stretch Energy Code article

ORANGE — The Selectboard supports a fall town meeting warrant article pertaining to the potential for greater energy efficiency building codes, but board members won’t vote on its specific language until after the Oct. 2 warrant deadline.

The Selectboard on Monday held a second public hearing on Stretch Energy Code after the first one, on Aug. 22, drew just 10 people. Asked if he was frustrated only four people showed up at the second hearing, Selectboard Chairman Ryan Mailloux said he is confident people got all the information they need from the watching the hearings on television.

The Selectboard will vote at a future meeting whether to adopt each proposed article for the town meeting slated for Oct. 26.

Jim Barry, of Belchertown, again explained Stretch Energy Code, which is designed to result in cost-effective construction methods that would improve energy efficiency, and how Orange can gain Green Community status.

Barry, a former selectman in Belchertown, who was hired by the state Department of Energy Resources to explain the Green Communities program throughout western Massachusetts, said it is called Stretch Energy Code because it was “a bit of a stretch” compared to Base Energy Code. He also dispelled some misconceptions he said that are plaguing the idea.

Barry explained town residents will not be required to update their existing homes because Stretch Energy Code applies only to new residential construction, new commercial construction greater than 100,000 square feet and high energy users such as supermarkets, laboratories and refrigerated warehouses greater than 40,000 square feet.

Barry also said Stretch Energy Code is neither new nor experimental.

The state’s Green Communities Designation and Grant Program has helped 185 cities and towns earn Green Community designation, making them eligible for state grants. But becoming a Green Community requires adoption of the Stretch Energy Code.

Barry has said the application is due by Oct. 31. Orange’s estimated reward for becoming a Green Community is $145,000, he said.

At the Aug. 22 public hearing, Barry explained Stretch Energy Code is performance based. It requires new homes to meet a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index rating target, instead of requiring the installation of specific levels of energy efficiency for each building element, such as window installation and roof insulation. The HERS rating is a measure based on a home’s total expected energy use and overall efficiency. Barry said it is calculated by a certified HERS rater using accredited software.

Under Stretch Energy Code, Barry explained, builders do not have to install specific energy efficiency measures and they have the choice of which ones to install and how to design the home in order to reach the HERS rating target.

An additional cost will be mostly for the services of the HERS rater and more efficient heating systems. According to Barry, this is typically in the $1,600 to $3,000 range for residences, with a $1,300- to $1,700-incentive available through the Massachusetts Residential New Construction Program that offsets most of the cost. Barry also said homeowners typically get a net savings each year due to annual energy bill savings.

Barry said 204 communities — representing more than half of the state’s population — have adopted Stretch Energy Code. These communities include neighboring Athol, Warwick, Erving, Wendell and New Salem. They have gotten sums ranging from $137,850 that went to Warwick to $475,000 that Athol received.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 258.
On Twitter: @DomenicPoli

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