Orange discussing Green Community designation 

  • Orange Town Hall by night recorder file photo

Recorder Staff
Published: 8/23/2017 9:31:32 PM

ORANGE — Selectmen have opted to hold a second public hearing on the potential for greater energy efficiency building codes after the one slated for Tuesday drew an unimpressive crowd.

Roughly 10 people showed up in the selectmen’s meeting room to listen to Jim Barry of Belchertown explain Stretch Energy Code, designed to result in cost-effective construction methods that would improve energy efficiency, and how Orange can gain Green Community status. Though those attending had input, selectmen decided to schedule a second hearing for Sept. 11.

Ryan Mailloux, chairman of the Orange Board of Selectmen, said he thinks the next hearing will have a larger crowd following “Facebook commentary” and because it was mentioned during Tuesday’s televised hearing.

Barry, a former selectman in Belchertown who was hired by the state Department of Energy Resources to explain throughout western Massachusetts the Green Communities program, said his town voted in 2009 to adopt the Stretch Energy Code, which went into effect in 2010.

The state’s Green Communities Designation and Grant Program has helped 185 cities and towns earn Green Community designation, making them eligible for state grants. But becoming a Green Community requires adoption of the Stretch Energy Code.

Barry said the application is due by Oct. 31. Orange’s estimated reward for becoming a Green Community is $145,000, he said.

According to Barry, the state gives communities two options for their building energy code — a Base Energy Code or a Stretch Energy Code. Towns can choose to adopt the Stretch Energy Code by a Town Meeting vote, and it can be rescinded by the same means.

Barry explained the updated Stretch Code applies to all new commercial buildings more than 100,000 square feet in area and new commercial buildings more than 40,000 square feet if they are specific high energy users such as supermarkets, laboratories and refrigerated warehouses. All additions, renovations, and repairs to residential buildings are exempted, as are smaller new commercial buildings and additions, renovations and repairs of commercial buildings.

According to Barry, the Stretch Energy Code is performance based. It requires new homes to meet a Home Energy Rating System index rating target, instead of requiring the installation of specific levels of energy efficiency for each building element, such as window installation and roof insulation. The HERS rating is a measure based on a home’s total expected energy use and overall efficiency. Barry said it is calculated by a certified HERS rater using accredited software.

Under the Stretch Energy Code, Barry said, builders do not have to install specific energy efficiency measures — they have the flexibility to choose which energy efficiency measures to install and how to design the home in order to meet the HERS rating target.

An additional cost will be primarily for the services of the HERS rater and more efficient heating systems. According to Barry, this is typically in the $1,600 to $3,000 range for residences, with a $1,300- to $1,700-incentive available through the Massachusetts Residential New Construction Program that offsets most of the cost. Barry also said homeowners typically get a net savings each year due to annual energy bill savings.

Member Bob Michaud said a special town meeting would allow more public input, instead of “bottling it up here at the selectmen.”

Orange Building Commissioner Brian Gale opposes the Stretch Energy Code, saying it forces people to hire HERS raters, who he said should be hired based on merit and free-market choice, rather than legal obligation.

According to Barry, 204 communities — representing more than half of the state’s population — have adopted the Stretch Energy Code. These communities include neighboring Athol, Warwick, Erving, Wendell and New Salem. They have got sums ranging from $137,850 (Warwick) to $475,000 (Athol).


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