Thirty municipalities signal strong support for state development of the most stringent building code
On November 29, 2021, chief executives and administrative officers from 30 municipalities, submitted a letter to Secretary Katheleen Theoharides, indicating a unified commitment to a strong and effective net zero stretch code that is being developed by the Department of Energy Resources.
Concord joined these municipalities and signed in support!
The municipal opt-in net zero stretch code was part of the Next Generation Roadmap bill signed by Governor Baker in March 2021. Buildings are the second largest source of carbon emissions in Massachusetts, and the largest source of emissions in Concord. Developing a new building code that requires new construction to have the highest levels of energy efficiency, be all electric and have renewable energy available on or off site is the most effective way to ensure buildings become a core climate mitigation strategy for communities wanting to accelerate their transition to clean energy. Once the net zero municipal stretch code is developed by DOER in consultation with the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, communities will have the option of adopting it by the end of 2022. As outlined in the Next Generation Roadmap bill, the Department of Energy Resources is also required to hold 5 community meetings in diverse locations to solicit feedback to a draft code developed by the state agency.
4 Reasons Why We Need a Net Zero Stretch Code
Buildings are the largest source of climate pollution in MA. Massachusetts has strong, legally-binding climate goals that require the state to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Experts agree that this target is unattainable without a rapid reduction in fossil fuel use in the building sector. In Massachusetts, the building sector is responsible for 54% of GHG emissions. According to the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), “the building sector must approach near-zero emissions in the aggregate by 2050 in order for the Commonwealth to achieve net-zero statewide emissions in the same time frame.”
In order to meet our state’s climate goals, we must ensure the homes and offices built this decade and beyond are set to use energy wisely - being as efficient as possible - and equipped to run on clean, renewable electricity instead of fossil fuels. Any building not equipped to be net zero today will have to undergo expensive retrofits later. We need to get this right from the beginning.
Fossil gas is now the largest source of climate pollution in the U.S.— and emissions specifically from buildings increased a full 10% in 2018, driven by gas appliances. To avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we must stop burning gas and transition to 100% renewable energy.
Protecting Environmental Justice communities that have historically been subjected to higher rates of fossil fuel pollution is the first step in supporting a holistic recovery from the overlapping impacts of the COVID pandemic, climate crisis and longstanding housing unaffordability. This past year has revealed how suffering from the disproportionate effects of climate change makes Black and Brown communities more vulnerable to COVID-related deaths, because they live in neighborhoods and housing that are more toxic and more polluted compared to white communities. By growing access to healthy homes and lowering building costs by forgoing fossil fuel infrastructure, we can address these compounding crises.
Buildings with heating systems and appliances powered by fossil fuels like gas are contributing to public health crises. In Massachusetts, buildings are the number one source of air-pollution-related premature deaths.
Cooking with gas for just one hour creates unhealthy levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) pollution in 90% of all homes. Breathing NO2 inflames the lining of the lungs and reduces our immunity to lung infections—including COVID19. Researchers have linked even a modest increase in NO2 pollution exposure to higher COVID-19 death rates—meaning, gas stoves may be putting millions of Americans at an elevated risk during the coronavirus pandemic.
Children living in homes with gas cooking stoves have a 42% higher risk of current asthma, a major public health challenge in MA. This has been backed up by a longitudinal study in Massachusetts, which showed that children with asthma had more severe and frequent asthma symptoms if they lived in homes with gas cooking stoves. The impacts of indoor and outdoor air pollution are disproportionately borne by low-income households and communities of color and air pollution is a driver of health disparities in asthma.
Massachusetts can build more affordable buildings more quickly by building net zero construction that bypasses gas. According to a review of construction in Massachusetts, Built Environment Plus found last year that zero energy buildings are already being built today with zero additional up-front costs. All building types studied can be built zero energy ready for upfront costs of less than 7%, and will recoup those expenses in just a few years, while going on to save owners and residents considerable cash over the years.
To save further on building costs, we should be forgoing gas hookups which can add considerably to the price of the home. This should be very encouraging for Gov. Baker and the real estate industry as they look for ways to lower up-front costs and build more quickly as we recover from the COVID-19 economic recession. By bypassing gas, you’re not only saving on construction cost, you’re ensuring you don’t contribute to coming stranded asset risk by expanding fossil fuel infrastructure the state does not need, and cannot afford.
Concord will continue to support bold action to make our state, and our Town, prepared to thrive in the future despite climate change.
We need you to act, too!