By next year, there could be a substantial increase in building energy efficiency for interested Vermont cities and towns.
In June, Vermont passed Act No. 89, which authorizes the adoption of a “stretch energy code” to be used for new residential buildings. The state is also considering adoption of a commercial stretch code and working with Efficiency Vermont and New Buildings Institute to develop the framework. A stretch code exceeds the standards of a state’s base energy code (typically by 15-20%), and provides architects, engineers and other building and design professionals looking to build energy efficient buildings with an appropriate state-wide reference. Local governments can then decide to adopt the stretch code, thereby making it the enforceable building code for their jurisdictions.
Act 89 incorporates a broader set of provisions intended to improve energy code compliance. For example, as an added incentive to municipalities adopting and complying with the stretch code, residential buildings qualify as meeting the energy conservation criterion of Act 250, the state’s Land Use and Development Act.
These stretch code provisions are an innovative approach to increasing the energy efficiency of new buildings. In fact, once Vermont writes and adopts its stretch code, it will be just the fourth state (after California, Oregon, and Massachusetts) to accomplish this. Massachusetts provides a precedent for the viability of stretch codes in our region, as over half of the commonwealth’s population now live in localities that have adopted the stretch code.
NEEP congratulates Vermont for further committing to advancing building energy efficiency. “In Vermont we have led the nation with ground-breaking energy efficiency programs that help families and businesses save money,” Gov. Shumlin said as he signed Act 89. “Today, I am proud to sign legislation that will continue our progress on energy efficiency.”
As more and more states consider adopting a stretch code, careful regional coordination is important to prevent market confusion and maintain consistency when defining the criteria of the stretch code. To address this, NEEP recommends that states adopt an “Informative Appendix” that contains a listing of acceptable energy efficiency criteria and building guidelines that meet advanced energy performance requirements of a stretch code. Such adoption ensures that a single, consistent, interpretable set of statewide standards are in place to inform and direct energy conservation in projects. To learn more about adopting a stretch code in your state, check out NEEP’s Model Progressive Building Energy Codes Policy or contact Allison Webster at firstname.lastname@example.org.