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December 3, 2012

Digging into the Stretch Code

Officials tout benefits amid questions on bill's restrictions

AMESBURY — As Amesbury debates whether to adopt a more energy-efficient building code, city officials brought in a panel of experts last week to explain what the Stretch Code is and what would actually happen if it was implemented.

Residents filled City Hall lto hear local builders, Newburyport officials familiar with the code and representatives from the state’s Green Communities Program present the workshop organized by City Councilor Christian Scorzoni, who is one of the chief sponsors of the Stretch Code bill.

The Stretch Energy Building Code, or Stretch Code for short, is an alternative state building code that emphasizes energy efficiency and has tighter building requirements for both residential and commercial projects. Communities can choose to adopt the Stretch Code over the state’s standard building code, with the hope of reducing long-term energy costs.

So far, the Stretch Code has been adopted in 122 communities in Massachusetts, including Newburyport, which implemented it last summer.

Michael Berry, a manager of new residential construction for ICF International, highlighted the benefits of the Stretch Code compared to the state’s base code.

“The Stretch Code is 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than our base code,” Berry said. “So in Newburyport, homes that are being built are 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than they are in Amesbury, right off the bat.”

Berry said that the biggest challenge of the Stretch Code comes with new, single-family construction, but noted that next summer, the state will implement a new standard building code that will be very similar to the current Stretch Code.

“Towns that adopted the Stretch Code are adopting a code that’s very similar to the one that’s going to come sooner than later,” Berry said. “So they’re ahead of the curve.”

Berry also addressed a number of common misconceptions regarding the Stretch Code, including the notion that building an addition on a house would require the property owner to bnring the entire house up to code. Berry said only the area affected has to be up to code when doing an addition or renovation.

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