Baker administration unveils building code slide deck
Calls for updates of 2 existing codes and addition of a 3d
BAKER ADMINISTRATION officials unveiled a slide deck on Tuesday that outlines in broad strokes how they intend to use updates to two existing state building codes and the development of a third more restrictive code to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions coming from newly constructed commercial and residential buildings.
The new building codes are scheduled to take effect next year after a public comment period and regulatory hearings. It’s expected new construction regulated by the building codes over the next 27 years will account for 27 percent of all building space by 2050, when state law requires Massachusetts to reach net zero emissions.
In an online briefing, officials from the Department of Energy Resources said they are hoping the new construction changes will have a spillover impact on the existing built environment, where the largest amount of building emissions is coming from. State officials say they have to drastically scale back emissions from buildings and vehicles and convert them to run on renewably generated electricity if the state is going to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Officials took no questions after the briefing.
Tamara Small, the CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, which represents commercial real estate developers, said the new building code changes will usher in dramatic changes for developers but it was difficult to draw any conclusions with any precision about what those changes will be from a 48-page slide deck.
Two building codes cover the state currently — one a base code that updates every three years and covers 59 municipalities and the other a more restrictive stretch code that updates periodically and covers 299 communities. Communities that embrace the stretch code qualify as Green Communities and become eligible for the grants and benefits that accompany that designation.
Both of the current building codes are being updated to put downward pressure on greenhouse gas emissions and a specialized stretch code is being added for those municipalities that want to do more. None of the codes do away with fossil fuel infrastructure, but those that retain natural gas will have to take other steps to reduce emissions.
The stretch code, for example, requires much less energy usage overall in gas-heated homes by requiring triple-glazed windows, better insulation, and other measures that tend to increase costs.
The specialized stretch code includes a definition of a net zero home that, according to the slide deck, “does not necessitate onsite or offsite renewables, nor the assumption that an individual building is net-zero energy. A building becomes net zero energy when the Massachusetts electric grid is net zero.”
The specialized stretch code would require homes or commercial buildings using gas to achieve greater energy efficiency and also mount solar on the roof and pre-wire the building for electrification.
It’s not clear whether communities would be offered any incentive to sign up for the specialized stretch code.Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the co-chair of the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee, said he was concerned that the proposal would permit the continued installation of fossil fuel infrastructure.
It’s also not clear how much this effort will cost. The slide deck indicated there would be $21 billion in life cycle cost savings — $13.2 billion residential and $8.2 billion commercial. But there was no indication what the changes would cost.