State Code Status: Massachusetts


Massachusetts had something for everyone: nation-leading energy efficiency plans; technical support and grants to support the 351 cities and towns committed to moving along the path of energy efficiency and renewable energy toward zero-net energy buildings; robust sustainability goals for state-owned properties, and so much more.

Why We Watched

Stretch Code

In July 2009, Massachusetts became the first state to adopt an above-code appendix to its state code – the 120 AA Stretch Energy Code. The Stretch Code is an enhanced version of the 2009 IECC with greater emphasis on performance testing and prescriptive requirements. It was designed to be approximately 20 percent more efficient than the base energy code for new construction (then the 2009 IECC), with less stringent requirements for residential renovations.

The stretch code divided commercial buildings by size and type. Buildings under 5,000 ft2, “specialty buildings” under 40,000 ft2 (e.g. supermarkets, warehouses, and laboratories), and renovations are exempt. Buildings over 100,000 ft2 and specialty buildings larger than 40,000 ft2 had to demonstrate a 20 percent reduction in energy use from ASHRAE 90.1-2007 using approved energy modeling. Buildings between 5,000 and 100,000 ft2 could meet the same performance requirements or a prescriptive code based on a codified version of New Buildings Institute’s (NBI) Core Performance Guide, which includes more stringent building envelope and HVAC equipment requirements than the 2009 IECC and new requirements for commissioning, air barriers, and lighting controls.

New residential construction required a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score of 65 or less for homes 3,000 ft2 and larger and 70 or less for those smaller than 3,000 ft2, as well as compliance with the ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes Thermal Bypass Inspection Checklist. Additions had to meet the same performance requirements, whereas renovations required a less stringent HERS rating (80 or 85 for homes 2,000 ft2 and larger or smaller, respectively). Both could also comply with ENERGY STAR for Homes prescriptive requirements, plus meet or exceed 2009 IECC insulation requirements.

Forty Massachusetts cities and towns had adopted the stretch energy code as of May 14, 2010. A town or city that adopted the appendix also had to provide energy code training to the building officials in its area. This requirement was supported by stimulus funded training on energy codes offered around the state on both residential and commercial 2009 IECC provisions and stretch energy codes.

A concurrency period and a training policy were approved at the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) meeting on May 12, 2010. A concurrency period existed when either the new code or the existing code can be used, but not combined. The BBRS approved a concurrency period of six months, with such period to begin on either January 1 or July 1 of any year.

Green Communities

Another effort to empower communities was the Green Communities Grant Program. Under the purview of the Green Communities Division of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, this broader endeavor assisted and motivateed towns and cities throughout the state to improve their energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, and develop renewable projects. Funding could be used for renewable/alternative energy projects such as solar photovoltaics, biomass, thermal, or hydro. Created as part of the Green Communities Act of July 2008 and funded by proceeds from Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), this program sought to provide approximately $7 million in grants to municipalities who met five criteria and qualify to be designated as a Green Community. The Green Communities Division officially launched the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program on January 22, 2010, opening the way for cities and towns to be designated as Green Communities.

Through state resources and with guidance made available by the Green Communities Division, municipalities who committed to reducing their energy demand, greening their energy supply, and addressing concerns about life-cycle costs by meeting these five criteria:

  1. Provide as-of-right siting in designated locations for renewable/alternative energy generation, research & development, or manufacturing facilities
  2. Adopt an expedited application and permit process for as-of-right energy facilities
  3. Establish benchmark for energy use and developed a plan to reduce baseline by 20 percent within five years
  4. Purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles
  5. Set requirements to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction

Massachusetts Energy Code Status →


May 25, 2010 Massachusetts’s Governor Deval Patrick designates 35 cities and towns as the Commonwealth’s first official “Green Communities” – a status that makes them eligible for $8.1 million in grants for local renewable power and energy efficiency projects. The projects promise to create green jobs and advance both municipal and state clean energy goals.

“We are confident that these 35 municipalities – and the projects they will undertake with Green Communities grants – will serve as shining examples to the Commonwealth’s other 316 cities and towns, all of which we hope will also work toward becoming Green Communities and reaching their clean energy goals in the months ahead.”

— DOER Commissioner Phil Giudice

November 17, 2009 Boston City Council approves the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code. It becomes the fifty-ninth community in the state to adopt the more stringent requirements.