WEST NEWBURY — The Energy Advisory Committee is holding an informational meeting next week for residents interested in learning more about a plan to make the Stretch Code part of the town’s Building Code. Voters at the annual town meeting this spring will be asked to consider adopting the optional appendix to the state’s energy building code.
The informational forum, slated for Thursday, Jan 24, at 7 p.m. in the 1910 Town Office Building, is a chance for people to better educate themselves about the Stretch Code and raise any questions they may have about adopting it, energy committee chairman Rick Parker said.
Adoption of the Stretch Code into the town building code is one of five requirements that a community must meet in order to qualify as a Massachusetts Green Community and become eligible for state grants to fund energy-efficiency projects. Meeting the Green Communities criteria aids towns in reducing both private and municipal energy usage.
Newburyport, Amesbury and Topsfield have already adopted the Stretch Code and joined the ranks of more than 100 other Green Communities statewide. To date, Newburyport has received $155,000 to fund energy conservation measures at the police station and City Hall. It is also realizing benefits through Solarize Massachusetts, a state program aimed at providing increased energy savings to a community as more people and businesses go solar. In Topsfield, a $132,975 Green Community grant is upgrading energy needs for six municipal buildings, including indoor and outdoor lighting upgrades at two elementary schools. Amesbury, meanwhile, just adopted the Stretch Code on Jan. 8.
The Stretch Code ensures newly built homes will be 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than what’s required under the state’s standard building code. The code does not require upgrades to existing buildings, but instead applies to additions and renovations. In these cases, the code only applies to the new or renovated portions of the building. Registered historical sites are exempt from the code.
Adopting the code is the final significant step West Newbury must take in order to achieve Green Community designation. The town has already made substantial progress toward the designation. Most recently, it gained voter approval last spring for a solar overlay district on town property west of the Dr. John C Page Elementary School. Creating the overlay district met a Green Community requirement to establish as-of-right siting in designated locations for renewable energy generation.
During a discussion last month, selectmen were split on the Stretch Code. Dick Cushing and Glenn Kemper favored bringing the vote to town meeting floor, but Chairman Bert Knowles did not, saying the decision over whether to include stricter energy efficiencies in a home or business should be left up to the property owner or the contractor.
But Parker said he believes the Stretch Code offers “a win for both the residents — who will realize the Stretch Code benefits in a reduction to their energy bills — as well as the town through grant opportunities.” He said Green Community funds may be applied toward energy-efficient building projects at the Page School and other municipal buildings. These projects, in turn, will continue to bring the benefit of reduced energy costs.
“What matters now is what the residents think, as their vote at town meeting is needed to approve the Stretch Code. I hope they will take the chance to learn more by attending the meeting,” Parker said.