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Bellingham Bulletin

Bellingham Aims for "Green Community" Designation with Adoption of Stretch Code

Oct 30, 2019 09:49AM ● By Pamela Johnson

Adoption of the Stretch Code is another warrant article to be voted on at Special Town Meeting on Nov. 13, 7:30 pm, at BHS

written by Amy Bartelloni, Contributing Writer

On November’s Town Meeting Warrant is an article that would amend town bylaws to adopt the “Stretch Energy Code.” The adoption would be the last step in allowing Bellingham to join 240 other Massachusetts communities in having the designation of “Green Community.” Kelly Brown, of Massachusetts’ Green Communities Division, along with Mike Berry of ICF International, explained what that means to the Board of Selectmen at their October 7th meeting.

Though only 240 towns and cities meet the designation of “green community,” the Green Communities Division serves all MA cities and towns. According to their website, they help find clean-energy solutions that reduce long-term energy costs and strengthen local economies.

“The Green Communities Division serves as a hub for all Massachusetts municipalities on all matters relating to energy,” Brown explained. “The Green Communities designation grant program provides up to $20 million in grant funds on an annual basis to existing green communities.” The funds do not come out of the general budget, but out of RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) and ACP (Alternative Compliance Payments) funds, which fund energy efficiency projects.

Since 2010, most of Bellingham’s neighboring towns have received the green community designation along with designation and competitive grant money, including Blackstone ($151,075), Franklin ($183,020), Medway ($892,759), and Mendon ($475,840). Bellingham stands to receive an estimated designation grant of $155,000, a formula based on population and per capital income, with the possibility of competitive grants. According to Town Administrator Denis Fraine, this money has to be spent on energy-efficiency upgrades, such as new windows, insulation, energy efficient boilers, or electric vehicles, at the discretion of the town.

The last step for Bellingham to become a green community is to minimize life-cycle cost in new construction, or adoption of the “Stretch Code,” which requires a vote at town meeting. Bellingham would join 273 other municipalities that have adopted the stretch code. ICF’s Mike Berry explained that the code is an appendix to the main building code, which pertains to all new residential and commercial construction over 100,000 sq. ft. or over 40,000 sq. ft for conditioned spaces such as labs and supermarkets. Additions, renovations, and repairs are exempt from the stretch code, he pointed out, which default to the current code.
Early adopters of stretch code found compliance quite a stretch, he told the Board, though now builders aren’t finding it much of a stretch. It applies to such things as insulation, doors, windows, skylights, mechanical equipment, lighting, appliances, building tightness, and duct tightness. Renewables aren’t part of the code, but you get points for doing them. It requires a “HERS” process” (home energy rater), who will review building plans via computer modeling, conduct in-process inspections, and finalize an energy model based on verified performance and equipment.

“Typically, builders are very surprised to know that the homes they’re building are pretty close to achieving code,” Berry said.

Town Administrator Denis Fraine stepped in to clarify: “In a nutshell, we’re looking at stretch codes vs. base codes,” he explained. “They’re pretty similar in this point. It’s not so much of a stretch anymore.” Financial costs incurred by the builder will be passed on to the buyer, but these can be offset with Mass Save rebates and energy savings.

Adoption of the Stretch Code has been in front of the town before, in 2012/13, according to Fraine. “At that point in time, it was a stretch, and it was defeated soundly at Town Meeting,” he said. Now, with many surrounding towns being green communities, builders are becoming used to the new code.  The Board voted unanimously to recommend the adoption of the Stretch Code. If the code is adopted at town meeting, Bellingham’s “green community” status could be adopted quickly. More information about green communities can be found online at https://www.mass.gov/orgs/green-communities-division, and the warrant for Town meeting can be found online at www.bellinghamma.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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