AMESBURY — Amesbury cleared a major hurdle toward becoming recognized as a Green Community last night after the City Council voted in favor of adopting a stricter building code that will tighten energy-efficiency requirements for all future construction.
The council voted 7-2 in favor of adopting the Stretch Energy Building Code, or Stretch Code for short, which is an alternative state building code that emphasizes energy efficiency and has tighter building requirements for both new residential and commercial projects.
Councilors Donna McClure and Jim Kelcourse voted against the measure.
The idea behind the code is that communities who choose to adopt it will see reduced energy costs in the long run, which will ultimately help save the community money. That was one of the main arguments presented by Councilor Christian Scorzoni, the bill’s primary sponsor, and his sentiment was echoed by council President Anne Ferguson.
“This is a great way for our community to bring in some money to help us and save money on our overall operations,” Ferguson said.
Under the Stretch Code, newly constructed buildings will now have to be 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than required by the state’s standard building code. The code is not retroactive and will not require existing homes to be brought up to code unless the owner does an addition or a renovation.
Even in that case, only the portions of the house affected by the construction would have to be up to code, and registered historical sites are exempt from the code’s requirements.
Adopting the Stretch Code is one of the state’s five requirements toward becoming recognized as a Green Community, which would make the city eligible for up to $10 million in state grant funds that can be used for green energy projects.
The five criteria that Amesbury must meet are: provide zoning for renewable energy generating, R&D or manufacturing facilities; adopt an expedited application and permit process for those facilities; develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years; purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles; and adopt the state’s Stretch Code.
By adopting the Stretch Code, Amesbury has now met three of the five criteria, Scorzoni said. The city has already provided zoning for renewable energy facilities by creating a solar overlay district in town, and according to Scorzoni, the city has also finalized an expedited permitting process for those facilities.
Mayor Thatcher Kezer said he and the council would be working toward the two remaining requirements in the coming year, and the goal is to have all five requirements met by the next round of Green Community applications, which will take place in November.