New Energy Efficiency Requirements in Store for Commercial Buildings in Massachusetts

Owners, managers, and developers of commercial buildings in Massachusetts need to be alert for impending updates to the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency standards. In addition to adopting mandatory changes to the State Building Code, regulators may also update the Stretch Energy Code. Although some transition period will likely be provided, the new standards will soon take effect.

The Commonwealth’s Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) is now reviewing for adoption the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2012), which includes state-specific amendments for both residential and commercial buildings. This update to the State Building Code is mandated by the Massachusetts Green Communities Act of 2008, which requires the adoption of each new IECC edition within one year of its publication.

The adoption of IECC 2012 will update the Commonwealth’s current statewide baseline energy efficiency requirements, which are based on the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2009). The Commonwealth’s adoption of IECC 2012 will increase the required baseline energy efficiency for commercial buildings by about 20% above the IECC 2009 baseline. Specifically, IECC 2012 updates focus on making building envelopes tighter by: improving envelope and window insulation levels; requiring improved efficiency in lighting power density and controls; requiring use of the updated ASHRAE/ACCA standard for heating and cooling load sizing calculations; making demand controlled and heat recovery ventilation mandatory for most buildings; and increasing HVAC commissioning by requiring HVAC systems to operate as designed prior to building occupancy. The BBRS is currently determining the length of the concurrency period for the phasing in of IECC 2012 and phasing out of IECC 2009.

In 2009, along with its initial adoption of the IECC 2009 statewide energy efficiency baseline, the BBRS also adopted a ‘Stretch’ Energy Code as an appendix to the State Building Code. The Commonwealth’s original 2009 Stretch Energy Code gave cities and towns the option to achieve approximately a 20% improvement in building energy efficiency performance above that required by the IECC 2009 baseline. As of January 2013, 123 Massachusetts cities and towns had adopted the 2009 Stretch Energy Code. During the concurrency period and transition from IECC 2009 to IECC 2012, the BBRS will also consider the adoption of an updated Stretch Energy Code to maintain a gap between the State Building Code’s base and stretch energy efficiency requirements. According to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), once an updated Stretch Energy Code is adopted, BBRS will rescind the old 2009 Stretch Energy Code appendix to the State Building Code. However, municipalities will continue to be considered either stretch or base code communities after the State Building Code is updated from EICC 2009 to EICC 2012, unless they elect to change their status.

In sum, with required updates to the State Building Code coming out soon, along with the possible adoption thereafter of an updated Stretch Energy Code, 2013 will definitely be a busy year for commercial building owners, managers and developers to come up to speed on the new energy efficiency code requirements in Massachusetts. Further, as the IECC is in use or adopted in 46 states, the District of Columbia and New York City, those involved with commercial buildings located outside Massachusetts should also be on the lookout for the adoption of IECC 2012 updates by other states and cities.

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