THE BAKER ADMINISTRATION is preparing to unveil proposed revisions to the state building code that would ratchet up energy conservation across the state and allow individual communities to opt-in to a “specialized stretch code” that would require new construction to be much more energy self-sufficient.
The specialized stretch code, according to sources briefed on the plan, would require all new construction to include rooftop solar panels, to meet at least some “passive house” standards, and to be capable of using electricity for all heating needs.
Administration officials did not respond to requests for comment, but the Department of Energy Resources notified stakeholders it was releasing on Tuesday a “straw proposal” containing updates to the existing stretch code and a framework for an “opt-in specialized stretch code.”
Sources said the revisions to the state building code would deal primarily with windows, insulation, and other measures to reduce energy usage. The opt-in specialized stretch code would allow communities to voluntarily take additional measures that would accelerate energy conservation, including requiring all new construction to include rooftop solar where practicable.
The stretch code would also require new construction to be equipped for full electrification and to meet at least some passive house standards, the goal of which is to dramatically limit energy usage.
According to sources, the proposed specialized stretch code would not ban fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction, but it would make the infrastructure largely redundant and expensive because the new construction must be equipped for full electrification.
A bylaw passed by Brookline in 2019 barred all new fossil fuel infrastructure, but it was shot down as illegal by Attorney General Maura Healey who ruled that municipalities do not have the authority to supersede state building and gas codes.
Several communities, including Brookline, Arlington, Lexington, Concord, and Acton, have been pressing the state for permission to ban fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction and major retrofits, so far without success.
The new building code proposals are part of a broader state effort to reduce carbon emissions with the goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.