What is a Stretch Code?

40% of all of the energy consumed in the U.S. is consumed in buildings, and many states have implemented energy efficiency building codes to try and reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment. Massachusetts has been at the cutting edge of these building codes since 2008 when they passed the Green Communities Act, an article of which requires the state to update it’s building codes every three years.

Massachusetts has also gone above and beyond these self-imposed requirements by adopting a “stretch code” option for cities and towns in 2009. This legislation gave cities and towns in Massachusetts the option to adopt a stricter energy efficiency standard for new homes, and the adoption of this stricter standard has the potential to reduce emissions in the built environment for years to come.

Ron Lucassen's stretch code compliant home under constructionopens IMAGE file

Although the upfront cost is a little higher, stretch code compliant homes can save homeowners money on energy bills for years to come!

HERS Ratings

There are many ways to measure the energy efficiency of a home, but one of the most prominent ways is with a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating. HERS ratings are determined by certified HERS raters who survey homes’ insulation levels, air leakage, and appliance efficiency among other things. They then assign the home an energy efficiency rating between 0 and 150, the lower the score the better. The system is also designed so that each point corresponds to a percentage point of energy efficiency (for example a home with a score of 90 is 10% more energy efficient than a home with a score of 100).

In the US in 2020, the average score for a new standard home is 100, but the Massachusetts base building code requires new homes to have a rating of 66 or belowopens PDF file and the Massachusetts stretch code requires a rating of 55 or below. As of August 19, 2020 286 Municipalities in the state have adopted the building stretch codes.

The upfront costs of building a stretch code compliant home are higher than those of a standard home, but that initial expenditure comes back to homeowners through utility bill savings over the years. Mass.gov releases a stretch code modeling analysis every few years that shows the upfront cost and long-term savings of following the stretch codes. In 2017opens PDF file , they surveyed a 2,550 square foot home that was built according to the stretch codes, and determined that the stretch code compliance cost the homebuyer and extra $97 on the down payment and an extra $77 in annual mortgage payments, but saved the homebuyer $213 per year in reduced energy cost, leaving them with an extra $37 after year one and $135 per year thereafter.

CET Can Help!

Complying with the stretch codes can be a complex process, but CET makes it easier! Our High Performance Building team performs HERS ratings and guides builders and contractors through the process of stretch code compliance. We help builders plan out how they expect to achieve their target HERS rating and guide them along the way. We also assist with permits and rebates on energy efficient appliances and systems.

Blueprintsopens IMAGE file

CET’s High Performance Building team can help you plan and build your new energy efficient home!

We helped Amherst resident Ron Lucassen with his new stretch code compliant home, and he was thrilled with our punctuality and knowledge of the process. “CET guided us through the stretch code process. They made sure we got all of the permits we needed and that everything else was in line with our HERS rating,” said Lucassen. “CET made sure the process ran smoothly. There were no delays and they really knew what they were doing!”

Visit our website to learn more about our High-Performance Building team and the benefits of energy efficient building!