NEEP’s guest-blogger George Twigg, Director of Public Affairs at EfficiencyVermont shares his perspective on stretch code implementation in Vermont and the importance of providing certainty and consistency for arriving at stakeholder consensus.
As noted by NEEP in its July issue of Highlights, Vermont became the latest state to adopt a “stretch code” for building energy efficiency in the spring of 2013. The stretch code will be developed through a public, statewide process and then make itself available for local adoption by towns that want to go above and beyond the statewide energy code. The stretch code will also be used as part of Vermont’s Act 250 land use review process for larger, residential developments.
This is great news for Vermont (though like many states, we still have lots of work to do on energy code compliance!), and was made possible by an emerging consensus that developed late in the legislative session. Spearheaded by Ron Shems, who heads up Vermont’s Natural Resources Board (the body that oversees Act 250 compliance), a broad array of stakeholders including state officials, key legislators, Efficiency Vermont, homebuilders, REALTORS, and others came together to develop a new path for achieving higher levels of energy efficiency for Vermont buildings.
One key to winning over industry support was the promise of certainty. In other words, because the stretch code would be adopted by the same public and transparent process used to adopt the baseline energy code, industry representatives had assurance that they would have a seat at the table in the development process.
Another key was the promise of consistency. Adoption of a model statewide stretch code makes it more likely that for those communities that want to push harder on building energy standards, builders will be less likely to have to keep track of multiple varying standards from town to town.
Vermont’s comprehensive energy plan, released in 2011, includes an aggressive goal of having 100% of the state’s new building stock being net-zero energy by the year 2030. The stretch code is one way that we can create a viable on-ramp to reaching that goal on schedule, and in a predictable and consistent fashion that is sensitive to the needs of the marketplace.