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Tougher Building Efficiency Rules Proposed

Wed, 11/18/2020 - 16:29

Adopting a building construction code that would mandate greater energy efficiency and solar and electric vehicle-charging readiness would move East Hampton closer to the goal of achieving its energy needs from renewable sources and help New York State realize the steep emissions cuts mandated by the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the town board was told on Tuesday.

Representatives of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and an engineering and consulting firm gave an overview of the NYStretch Energy Code, a model code that can be adopted to require higher energy standards on new construction and substantial renovations of commercial and residential buildings, which account for around one-third of the state's greenhouse gas emissions. 

Jurisdictions are able to adopt an energy code that is more efficient than the state's, and those that do save around 11 percent over the state's 2020 Energy Conservation Construction Code, the board was told. The NYStretch Energy Code is essentially a jump start on what will be state and national policy within a few years, according to the presentation. Provisions of NYStretch can be met with currently available and familiar technologies.

"We need to accelerate a lot of things," Marilyn Dare of NYSERDA said, to achieve the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act's target of 185 trillion British thermal units of on-site energy savings in the building and industrial sectors by 2025. That savings would represent nearly one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to meet a larger goal, a 40-percent reduction in emissions by 2030. 

Slightly higher upfront construction costs are paid back in about a decade in the form of energy savings, said Margo Thompson of Newport Ventures, a Schenectady engineering and consulting firm, and incorporating energy efficiency and solar and electric-vehicle readiness in construction is cheaper than retrofitting existing structures. Beacon, Hastings-on-Hudson, and Dobbs Ferry have adopted the NYStretch code, and strong interest has come from a dozen more municipalities, including Southampton, she said. 

The NYStretch code goes beyond the Home Energy Rating System, or HERS, a nationwide standard of measurement of a building's energy performance that the town board incorporated into its building construction code in 2017.

"Builders have embraced net zero," Ms. Thompson said, referring to neutrality between the amount of energy a building uses and the amount of renewable energy created on site using technology like solar panels, heat pumps, and insulation. Net zero, she said, has become a selling point for high-quality construction.

Every time a new house is built, "we miss an opportunity to build a house that is not net zero," Krae Van Sickle, a member of the town's energy sustainability advisory committee, said in a call to the meeting, "and the legacy of that house continues 30, 50, or more years," long beyond the time frame in which climate scientists say sharp emissions reductions must be achieved.

"We have some more discussion and work to do on a potential code prior to adoption," Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said, acknowledging the NYStretch code's value in reaching the town's energy goals. "There has got to be a comprehensive approach moving forward," he said. "This is a critical part of it."



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