Dalton to Decide Energy-Efficient Building Codes

By Dan GigliottiDalton Correspondent
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The Select Board voted to add the state's Stretch Code to the annual town meeting warrant.

DALTON, Mass. — Residents will decide whether to invest in future energy-efficiency standards as part of a new initiative to receive a Green Communities designation from the state.

The Select Board recommended on Monday that the town's adoption of a Stretch Energy Code be included on the warrant for the annual town meeting, to be held on Monday, May 5, at Wahconah Regional High School at 7 p.m.

According to Green Committee co-Chairwoman Cheryl Rose, the group can earn some $140,000 or more in state grant funding by implementing energy-efficient strategies to benefit primarily the town's homeowners.

Eligibility for involvement in the state's Green Communities Program — helping municipalities reduce long-term energy costs — requires Dalton to institute additional building regulations. The Stretch Code, created by the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, places standards on aspects of homes and other buildings like insulation and air and water tightness that lead to more effective energy consumption.

The Stretch Code is one of five criteria to become a Green Community, designated by the state Department of Energy Resources. Town officials said the Stretch Code does not deviate greatly from the updated building code slated to be imposed starting this summer.

"I don't think the Stretch Code is that much different, when you're looking at the benefit to the town, financially," Rose said. "And to the individuals, if we can help folks do some energy-saving things in their existing home."

The Stretch Code is enforced by private companies certified in Home Energy Rating Systems (HERS) and is in addition to building codes imposed by the town's building inspector on any new construction projects in MassGreen communities.

More than 130 communities have adopted the Stretch Code, including North Adams, Pittsfield, Lenox and Williamstown, since 2010.

Green Committee co-Chairman Dick Wasielewski said it is possible the commonwealth's Stretch Code can become more stringent in the coming years, suggesting it will be advantageous for the town's standards to be set now.

If approved, the town will apply for the MassGreen initiative in the fall and receive acceptance into the program in January. Full implementation of the program would begin in the summer of 2015, based on this timetable.

The program will come at an increase in the town's tax rate of an undisclosed amount, relative to its population.

Completion of the other required criteria includes the creation of a plan to make buildings in Dalton 20 percent more energy efficient in five years.

Select Board member John Bartels said the long-term advantages make the program worth partaking in for town residents.

"The benefits of it, and not only saving energy, it helps the town in the long run. Although the grants are for specific energy improvement projects, in the long run, it affects our budget," Bartels said.

Rose said the average cost of a new house may be increased by between 2 percent and 4 percent by the new initiative in upfront costs, though a homeowner would gain long-term financial benefits. The Green Committee held a public forum during which the public expressed questions and concerns, but no strong opposition, according to town officials.

Tags: energy efficiency,   green building,   town meeting 2014,   

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