Massachusetts municipalities must meet building codes that specify standards for residential and commercial building construction. There are two Massachusetts building codes; the base code, a minimal standard, and the stretch code, a more energy efficient standard. The stretch code was approved in 2011 at the request of municipalities interested in reducing energy cost and environmental impact. Adoption of the stretch code requires town meeting approval. Both codes are administered by local building departments.

The stretch code applies to new residential buildings four stories or less. This includes single family homes, duplex apartments, and multi-family and affordable units. For commercial properties, it applies to new buildings over 100,000 square feet and new supermarkets, laboratories and conditioned warehouses over 40,000 square feet. Additions and renovations to residential and commercial buildings are covered by the base code.

To date, 294 of the 351 Massachusetts communities have adopted the stretch code. This includes Walpole, Sharon, Norfolk, Plainville, North Attleboro, Attleboro and Norton, and large cities like Boston, Cambridge and Springfield. Most developers and contractors in the state are already meeting stretch code requirements.

The stretch code is a win--win for consumers, the town, and the environment. The cost of meeting the stretch code is more than offset by energy cost savings. Lower energy consumption reduces global warming and climate change.

The Department of Energy and Resources published a study of the financial impact of meeting the stretch code on new residential construction. As an example, for a 2550-square-foot residence with gas heat, the additional cost of meeting the stretch Code was $1,013 after rebates, or 0.25% of the total construction cost. When this cost was included in the house price and mortgaged, the realized energy savings resulted in a positive annual average cash flow of $40 per year. The return is even higher for other heat sources like oil, electricity or propane.

For commercial construction the payback time for the 1% to 3% incremental stretch code cost is one to two years, after which the owner continues to reap financial benefits.

The adoption of the stretch code was voted down at the recent town meeting, The article was placed on the warrant by the selectman, promoted by town officials, and received a 6-2-1 advisory board recommendation. Our town leaders are to be commended for moving this issue forward.

The adoption of the Stretch Code in Foxboro will result in tighter, more comfortable, energy efficient homes and buildings that save money and reduce green house gas emissions and global warming.

Adoption of the stretch code will bring us closer to achieving Green Community status and sizable grants from the state.

For example, Easton has received over $900,000 in Green Community grants to date.

Over 84% of Massachusetts municipalities have already adopted the stretch code.

Adoption of the stretch code by Foxboro is long overdue.

This writer is a Foxboro resident.

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