Cities can motivate higher levels of building efficiency through building codes than LEED ordinances. On November 17th, 2010, Boston City Council unanimously approved a proposal submitted by Mayor Menino to increase building energy efficiency by 20%. The newly adopted “stretch code” allows developers to choose which efficiency measures to install, rather than mandating specific improvements.
Thanks to the Green Communities Act of 2008, Massachusetts adopted the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2009) as the energy portion of the state’s building code on July 1, 2010. Stretch code adoption is optional for cities. It is great to see that Boston is one of XXX cities that have chosen to adopt the stretch code.
Code-mandated requirements are fairly standard practices: installing high-efficiency heating systems, installing insulation correctly, keeping the building’s air seals tight, and adding efficient light fixtures and bulbs.
According to Marc Breslow, Director of Transportation and Buildings Policy:
Independent economic modeling done for the state estimates that, for a typical 2,700 square foot single-family home, building to the stretch code specs will reduce electricity and heating costs by about $500 a year over the IECC 2009 base energy code, while only adding $130 to annual mortgage costs – a substantial net savings beginning the first year of home ownership.
Other American cities are adopting similar and even more aggressive green building practices. For instance Los Angeles, in 2008, adopted the Los Angeles Green Building Ordinance , which requires that developers meet the US Green Building Council’s Energy and Design (LEED) standards for every new development. This includes the Private Sector Green Building Plan which applies LEED standards to all private sector construction.
While the new building requirements of Boston, Los Angeles and other leading “green” cities are noteworthy, it is important to remember that the biggest gains to be made in building efficiency are in existing buildings.