The competition between the states on who can move more aggressively in regulating greenhouse gases continues. Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards voted to approve a “Stretch” Building Code. The Stretch Code can be adopted locally by municipal option. Where adopted, buildings will have to be 20% more efficient than what would be required under the ASHRAE 2007 standard.
Since there was some ambiguity previously, let me be clear: I’m not a supporter of the stretch code. It’s one thing for states to regulate greenhouse gases in the absence of an active federal program. Even state and interstate programs, such as RGGI, should go away once a federal program is in place. To go the other way, and allow multiple programs within a state, is simply to let too many flowers bloom. Consistency is too important.
There’s an element of “be careful what you wish for” here, but my view is that if a more stringent code can be cost-effectively achieved, then the Board could adopt that code for the entire state; if the standards in the Stretch Code cannot be cost-effectively achieved statewide, then they should not be allowed by local option.
The Stretch Code is important evidence that Massachusetts continues to pursue an aggressive agenda on climate change, notwithstanding the current economic slowdown. The element of competition among states should also not be underestimated. Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bloomberg announced an agreement with 13 hospital systems to reduce GHG emissions by 30% over 10 years. That’s a major commitment – and one that I’m sure will be noticed in Massachusetts and California.
Any bets on how long it will take Ian Bowles at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs to call MGH and BIDMC and see if they are willing to up the ante?
We already had a new version for the building code approved and in place, along with a requirement for compliance with the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which will significantly improve energy efficiency statewide. With the Stretch Code applying to new construction and renovation of commercial and residential space, I am concerned about the negative impacts of this recent vote, including:
ending decades of uniformity under the existing building code and conflicting with the goals of the statewide code – to provide uniformity, predictability and clarity;
leaving towns without the resources to oversee the effective implementation of new codes;
adding significantly to the cost of construction, negatively impacting economic development at a time of rising unemployment; and
providing another tool to NIMBY forces in discouraging developers from working in certain communities.
I hope that in light of this current economic crisis, the administration will reconsider the vote of approval and consider the long-term effects this decision will have on residents and businesses of Massachusetts.