Watertown One of First Communities to Adopt Energy Efficient Construction Requirement

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With the City Council’s adoption of the state’s Specialized Stretch Code, Watertown became one of the first communities to adopt the code and continued efforts to make buildings in the community energy efficient.

The Council had already adopted the Massachusetts Stretch Code, but communities have to separately adopt the Specialized Stretch Code, which calls for net-zero energy buildings by 2050. The code applies only to new construction.

Adopting the Specialized Stretch Code is another step in the direction that the City has been heading toward energy efficiency, Council President Mark Sideris said before the Council’s unanimous vote.

“I think this is consistent with what this City Council has been doing, from solar arrays on roofs and hybrid vehicles in our fleet when possible and net zero schools,” Sideris said. “We are setting the model and I think this continues telling everybody we want people to comply.”

Councilor Lisa Feltner expressed appreciation for those who worked on getting the code approved and other climate efforts in the City. The adoption of the Specialized Stretch Code is one of the recommendations of Watertown’s Climate and Energy Plan, adopted by the Council in August 2022.

“Thank everyone for their support in moving ahead on our Climate and Energy goals and being on the forefront of things and getting things done,” Feltner said.

Resident Jocelyn Tager, who has advocated for the solar panel requirement on new projects adopted in 2018 and other green efforts, noted that the Specialized Stretch Code went into effect on Dec. 23, 2022, so Watertown may be one of the first, if not the first, community to adopt it. She said the community continues to be a leader in this area.

“Watertown is the first community in New England to pass the solar ordinance. We built the first two registered net zero schools in Massachusetts. We (will build) our high school — as currently planned we will be second in the country (to be net zero),” Tager said. “We are doing this right.”

While she said the Specialized Stretch Code is not perfect, because it has a pathway to using fossil fuels, she applauded the Council for approving “another in the growing list of doing right by our planet and its beings.” Along with the current nine Councilors, Tager also thanked former Councilors Susan Falkoff, Aaron Dushku, Angie Kounelis, and Kenny Woodland.

Details of the Specialized Stretch Code

The Council’s Committee on Economic Development and Planning received an overview of the Specialized Stretch Code at the Dec. 6 meeting. The report included the following summary of the code:

The Specialized Stretch Code only applies to new construction, not remodeling.

The Specialized Stretch Code ensures that new construction is consistent with net-zero Massachusetts goals for 2050, primarily through deep energy efficiency, reduced heating loads, and efficient electrification.

The Specialized Stretch Code accomplishes this by requiring all new building construction to have the increased energy efficiency construction specifications as net-zero buildings.

The Specialized Stretch Code gives a builder two choices:

a. Construct an all-electric building (i.e. no fossil fuels) which can take advantage of renewable energy, and be solar-ready so it can be upgraded in the future to (but does not actually require installation of) photo-voltaic systems.

b. Construct a mixed-fuel building (i.e. fossil fuel + electric), insulated to a higher efficiency level, pre-wired as full electric, and solar-ready so that it can be upgraded in the future to take advantage of renewable energy and the installation of photo-voltaic systems. Some solar is required to be installed depending on the building type.

The Specialized Stretch Code does not ban fossil-fuel installations for new buildings, however by requiring that a new mixed-fuel building be fully wired and insulated as a net-zero building, it may be advantageous to the builder to not install fossil fuel systems.

See the entire Committee on Economic Development and Planning report, including the text of the State’s Specialized Stretch Code, by clicking here.

3 thoughts on “Watertown One of First Communities to Adopt Energy Efficient Construction Requirement

    • Any particular reason you say so? I ask because it seems like this only applies to new construction and not to remodeling, so a) unless you’re preparing to build a completely new building from scratch it sounds like this wouldn’t apply to any private property rights that you would be able to exercise, and b) I personally think that it’s perfectly within a municipality’s rights to put limits on the kinds of buildings that are built within its jurisdiction, I wouldn’t want my next-door neighbor to be allowed to bury toxic waste in their back yard just because they own the property. I’m also intrigued by “unwarranted”, do you think that energy efficiency codes are automatically and definitionally unnecessary, or just that this policy unjustified (even given the limited scope that doesn’t apply to pre-existing construction)?

  1. Some people are in favor of destroying the planet that serves as habitat for Homo Sapiens, rather than abide by reasonable regulations.

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