Council Looks at Changing Codes

Thursday, April 26, 2012
By Joe Domelowicz

Winthrop residents considering an addition to their homes and local property developers may soon have a new set of building energy codes to contend with, as the Town Council considers a proposal to adopt the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code, in an effort to achieve ‘Green Community’ status with the State Department of Energy Resources and qualify for more than $150,000 in non-competitive grant funds.

Winthrop Building Inspector James Soper and Grants Administrator Peter Lombardi briefed the Council on the proposal to adopt the Stretch Code at last week’s (April 17) Council meeting and the Council referred the proposal to its Committee on Rules and Ordinances, for a hearing that was scheduled for Tuesday (April 24) after the Sun-Transcript’s deadline.

According to Soper, 106 Massachusetts communities have already adopted the ‘Stretch Code,’ which aims to ensure that new commercial and residential building projects are held to a higher, more energy efficient standard before receiving certificates of Occupancy from local building commissions.

However, most of the state’s higher population communities have already adopted the Stretch Code, representing approximately 47 percent of the state’s population in those 106 cities and towns.

“What the code specifically does is require new construction projects to pass certain checklist approvals,” said Soper.

That requirement and the new standards can add to the cost of building, but Soper added that in most cases the additional expense of building is off-set in the savings that are realized from operating a more energy efficient building, once it is completed.

‘For example, the state estimates that for a new residential building of 3,000 square feet, the additional cost to meet the code requirement would be about $2,700,” said Soper. “But the added cost would be spread out over the length of a mortgage to buy that home, resulting in a cost to homeowners of less than a couple of dollars per month, but the savings from owning a more energy efficient home would be realized back to that homeowner – about $500 per year – in about five years.”

From the town’s perspective, Lombardi said the adoption of the Stretch Code helps Winthrop meet one of several requirements under the state’s Green Communities legislation, in order for the town to be designated as a “green Community by the DOER.

“Once the town receives the Green Community designation, it would be eligible for grant funding of between $125,000 and $175,000 in non-competitive state grants in the first year,” said Lombardi.

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