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Carbon-Neutral Push Is On

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 06:48

East Hampton Town's energy sustainability committee concluded its work for 2020 with a recommendation to the town board that it adopt the NYStretch Energy Code, a statewide model for jurisdictions to use to accelerate the drive to carbon-neutral building.

Adoption of more stringent building ordinances, which the committee said should become even more strict with each update, would help move the town closer to its goal of deriving all of its energy from renewable sources. It would also help New York State meet the goals established in the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which mandates that all sectors in the state's economy be carbon neutral by 2050, with an intermediate goal of a 40-percent reduction by 2030. Emissions reductions are to be achieved through renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

Greenhouse gas emissions of the built environment make up one-third of the overall greenhouse gases emitted in the state and two-thirds of the state's energy consumption, Lena Tabori, the committee's outgoing chairwoman, wrote to the town board last month. The committee's Dec. 21 meeting was Ms. Tabori's last as chairwoman; she remains a member of the committee.

"Specifically, adoption of the NYStretch code would directly contribute to fostering a more sustainable environment through increasing the energy efficiency of our buildings and reducing their [greenhouse gas] emissions and carbon footprint," Ms. Tabori wrote. "At the same time, the projected energy savings — in electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, and propane — to building owners and tenants here on the East End will be 11 percent annually for those implementing the NYStretch code."

That code includes requirements for building envelopes, including window performance, increasing insulation standards, air-leakage testing, and air-barrier commissioning; lighting, by switching to LED and solar-powered lighting and lighting controls; ventilation, such as balanced mechanical ventilation for residential buildings; future compatibility, requiring renewable and electric vehicle readiness, and whole-building energy monitoring.

The NYStretch code relies on known technologies and methods, many already in use, Ms. Tabori wrote. The state's Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, has estimated that building to the NYStretch code would add an additional $2,463 to the cost of a single-family house in this area and produce an annual energy cost savings of $264, for a payback period of 9.3 years. It would add $0.85 per square foot to the cost of commercial building construction, with a 5.5-percent annual energy cost savings, for a payback period of 11 years.

"These comparisons, however, do not include the very real and tangible, but harder to quantify, benefits of improving the quality of our environment and putting us on a more climate-friendly track," Ms. Tabori wrote.

The town has already adopted the administration and enforcement of the State Energy Conservation Construction Code, which is revised every three years. The NYStretch code allows communities to voluntarily adopt one that goes further, and ahead of the normal three-year cycle. Adopting it would also count as a completed action item under the state's Clean Energy Communities Program.

"This is a small step, but an important one," Ms. Tabori wrote. "We hope that you will support our recommendation and look forward to seeing its adoption, in furtherance of both our town's goals and those of the state."

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