Select Board Adds Net-Zero-Friendly Code to Upcoming Warrant

July 25, 2023
Bedford is one of the hundreds of municipalities that have already adopted the Massachusetts Stretch Code. Image:

The Select Board on Monday voted to include on the fall Town Meeting warrant a more restrictive building code provisions, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now and in the future.

Although a presentation on the specialized code by the Energy and Sustainability Committee was delayed until their Aug. 14 meeting, Select Board members still supported placing the matter on the warrant.

One reason is because of a well-organized campaign by the conservation group Mothers Out Front to add the article by petition.

Bedford now follows the provisions of the Massachusetts stretch energy code. The key requirements of the specialized code are:

  • Any new residence larger than 4,000 square feet that uses fossil fuels must meet higher efficiency standards .
  • All new buildings (residences and commercial) using fossil fuels must be wired for eventual electrification and must also generate solar power on site.

Dan Bostwick of the Energy and Sustainability Committee pointed out that updates to the stretch code are effective automatically. The specialized code’s pre-wiring requirement will actually save money in the long run, he said, because it will preclude the need to retrofit when net zero greenhouse gas emissions become law.

Members of the local Mothers Out Front chapter, speaking one at a time, each with a specific focus, informed the board of specialized code aspects they felt were favorable.

Sue Swanson said “there is ample evidence to show that all-electric construction is actually cheaper to build, and net-zero-ready construction is at most two-to-four percent more.” Renu Bostwick maintained that the specialized code will not thwart economic development. It doesn’t apply to renovations and allows use of fossil in commercial buildings that are prewired and equipped with solar panels. Jane Mosier said the increase in electrified buildings will not tax the electricity supply.

Corinne Doud acknowledged that Bedford is without a permanent town manager for the next several weeks, but said the specialized code is not part of that office’s responsibilities. Karen Wilson, noting that “we are in a climate emergency,” said if the proposal isn’t addressed until Annual Town Meeting, its earliest effective date would be January 2025.

Also speaking in favor of the specialized code was Jacinda Barbehenn.

One Select Board member voted against the warrant addition. Paul Mortenson said he prefers to wait to evaluate other cities’ and towns’ experiences.

Besides the upcoming committee presentation next month, there will be a public hearing on the proposal, probably in September.

Note: Jacinda Barbehenn is a member of the Bedford Planning Board. She was speaking as an individual and not for the Planning Board.

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