In one of the most contested issues at the 4/28/14 annual town meeting (ATM) the 400 or so residents present voted to not adopt the Stretch Code by a voice vote that I ball parked at 60% – 40%, which resulted in the Town of Medfield unfortunately not qualifying as a Green Community under the Green Communities Act, and more unfortunately in the town not receiving the $148,000 DOER grant available to the town if we did so.
The Stretch Code is a building code that contains requirements to make structures more energy efficient than under the then current building code. The way it works is that every several years a new Stretch Code is created, and the state eventually makes that Stretch Code into the building code and adopts a new Stretch Code.
Since all of Massachusetts eventually adopts any Stretch Code, to me the issue was whether Medfield would be an early adopter of the forward thinking consensus rules that are designed to be both good for the buildings we put up (they will use less energy and rapidly pay back the extra costs incurred) and for our planet (using less energy reduces the building’s carbon footprint). In fact, the current Stretch Code becomes the required building code this summer.
I am told that Massachusetts has become the model for the whole nation on what building codes should be used, as the rest of the nation has been adopting the building codes that Massachusetts initiates.
So, by voting down adoption of the Stretch Code, we lost the $148,000 grant money, and yet we still have to live by the Stretch Code. For your information, what follows are the majority and minority reports put forward by the Warrant Committee members at the 4/28/14 annual town meeting on the Stretch Code.
Warrant Committee: Majority Report on Article 35
The Warrant Committee recommends dismissal of Article 35, and does not believe it is in the interest of the Town of Medfield to adopt the Stretch Code at this time. While we appreciate the efforts by the Medfield Energy Committee to obtain “Green Communities” status for Medfield, the costs of the stretch code to Medfield’s residents are not justified by the benefits to the town. In particular, we are mindful that these costs will fall most heavily on those of our citizens least able to bear them. Thus, even if the code may be a net benefit, we must consider its impact on our most vulnerable citizens.
First, the $148,000 grant is a one-time grant to be used only for energy-efficiency projects. It will not lower the tax rate nor can it be used to achieve other longstanding priorities. We have seen no evidence that this amount will bring significant, long-term benefits to the town.
Second, the stretch code will increase costs on Medfield residents who wish to renovate or remodel their homes. The burden of these costs will fall primarily on those of our residents with the most limited incomes. The renovations at issue may be necessary, and not optional or cosmetic. We think in particular of seniors or others living on fixed incomes who made need to make renovations for safety reasons, or to accommodate physical limitations. Implementing the stretch code will increase their costs.
The supporters of this article have put out charts showing that the increased up front costs of the stretch code will be offset by energy savings later on. The Warrant Committee takes no position on whether these hypotheticals are accurate.
Even if those projections are correct, there is nothing to prevent homeowners from choosing to build to the stretch code or beyond to capture these savings. Indeed, we believe that if it is cost effective to built to the stretch code, the intelligent, well-educated citizens of Medfield will choose what is in their best interest, without it being forced upon them in the name of well-meaning paternalism.
Third, adopting the code will add uncertainty and there for cost, to commercial and residential development at a time when Medfield is seeking additional development and is looking to increased commercial development as a path to mitigate the need for additional residential taxes. Medfield already has its challenges as a site for commercial development, adopting the stretch code in its current and future iterations will only increase that cost and make it less attractive to commercial development.
Finally, we would be committing the town to future, yet-to-be-written versions of the Stretch Code whose costs may be higher than the code currently under consideration. The early adopters will be the ones left to work out the kinks before architects and builders have had time to adjust to the new rules and develop cost-effective means of compliance. Given that everyone will have the option to build or renovate to the code, or beyond, we do not believe it wise to make such an open-ended commitment. Even though we could, in the future, reverse course on this issue, in practice, that is unlikely ever to happen.
Ultimately, it is likely a relatively small minority of Medfield residents who will be negatively impacted by the Stretch Code. But, we must always consider how our decisions impact those least able to bear the costs of those decisions. For these reasons, the Warrant Committee recommends dismissal of Article 35.
H:\My Documents\Warrant Committee\Stretch Code Majority Report.docx
Warrant Committee Minority Report in Favor of Passage of Article 35
I wish to make clear that this article is not proposing the introduction of an Energy Code to the town of Medfield, as new buildings, additions, and renovations are presently required to adhere to an existing Massachusetts Energy Code.
The first energy codes in the United States was developed in the 1970s in response to the OPEC oil embargo and energy crisis of that decade. These first energy codes were meant to lessen and try to eliminate the United States dependence on foreign energy sources as both a national and an economic security issue. The energy used in today’s commercial and residential buildings account for over 40% of the total energy used in the United States. So the building energy codes are critical in controlling and conserving the consumption of the nations energy resources. The original intent of the national energy codes as a policy of national energy independence continues to this day but we have now realized that there are additional benefits that include money savings, water conservation, the reduced emissions and health issues related to pollution as well as reduction in man–]made green house gases.
The United States now uses the International Energy Conservation Codes (IECC) that is then adopted by the different states. The 2012 IECC is the most recent published version but presently Massachusetts has only adopted the 2009 version of IECC. The present Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code was adopted in 2009 and closely mimics the 2012 version of the IECC. Massachusetts will be adopting this newer 2012 version of the IECC as its standard energy code as of July of this year (2014). This will make the required Massachusetts energy code and Stretch Code virtually the same until Massachusetts adopts a new Stretch Energy Code sometime in the near future. The arguments that the present Stretch Energy Code
The next Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code will most likely incorporate significant portions of the 2015 IECC which is due to be published later this year (2014). From published reports much of the changes in the 2015 IECC related to residential construction will include new performance paths to compliance that are easier for the public to understand and implement but will require homes to be only slightly more energy efficient than the 2012 IECC.
Without going into the detailed minutia of the energy codes, please also know that neither the new energy code nor the new Stretch Energy code will retroactively require existing buildings to comply with the latest codes. Only new buildings and when a minimum threshold for new additions or renovations is met will the new codes come into effect –]–] and then only on those portions of the building affected by the new work. Doing renovations or additions will not require the whole building or home meet the newest Energy code.
The voters should know that the adoption of the Stretch Energy Code will not have any additional affect on the costs any of the new town buildings being proposed for construction. It has been the Permanent Building Committee’s objective to design and build the town’s new buildings to meet the Stretch Energy Code because the Committee already sees the cost benefits of constructing buildings to the higher energy standards.
The vote on this article should not focus too much on the specifics of the present Stretch Energy Code or its costs. The present Stretch Code will become the required minimum energy code in 2 months. Codes related to the building industry are continually being changed, updated and adopted approximately every three years. As a consequence, the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code will become part of the required Massachusetts standard energy code approximately every three years and a new Stretch Energy Code will take its place.
Much of the arguments against adopting the present Stretch Energy Code because of additional cost to the homeowner will also be moot in 2 months as these special requirements adding these most of these costs will become part of the standard Massachusetts Energy Code on July 1, 2014. These additional costs are also typically a fairly small percentage of the overall costs of the construction.
The minority voting members believe that as the new Stretch Codes are developed anare adopted their additional cost burden on the home owner will be lessen but will still create financial pay backs. The minority voting members of the Warrant Committee feel that the taxpayers should vote in favor on the adoption of the Stretch Energy Code because the higher energy standards and the required verification of the energy performance of our buildings and homes in Medfield provide us with the consumer protection that the buildings and renovations we pay for will perform as they should. The higher standards we implement by committing to adopting the Stretch Energy Code will have many tangible benefits to the individual homeowners, the community, and the entire nation.
Medfield will also be taking the philosophical stance that Medfield is doing more than the minimum requirement to conserve energy in the built environment and that this will help create a country less dependent on foreign energy sources and more control of our energy future.