The town will decide whether to adopt the state’s energy policy on new building construction at the Special Town Meeting on Nov. 13, one of four articles up for a vote that evening.
Proposed by the Sustainable Green Committee, the article seeks to promote more efficient energy use by regulating the design and construction of new buildings, aligning with the town’s net zero emissions goals. It simultaneously hopes to reduce carbon emissions by steering new construction away from fossil fuel dependence, but it will not ban their usage entirely.
This policy, called the municipal opt-in specialized stretch code, was adopted by the state in January as an appendix to the state’s stretch code, which was enacted in 2010 and updated several times since. Seventeen towns in Massachusetts have adopted the specialized stretch code as of July 1.
“The Sustainable Green Committee began discussing the Specialized Code in the spring, after it became available for opt-in last January,” shared Sustainable Green Committee member Nicole Simpson, the committee’s expert on the code, in an email on Oct. 30. “We saw several other municipalities adopt it in their town meetings, and knew we wanted to bring it to a vote in Hopkinton at the next opportunity as it aligns with our Climate Action Plan.”
She added that the town passed the Net Zero Resolution in May at the Annual Town Meeting, affirming Hopkinton’s goals for reducing carbon emissions.
“This change to our building code would be a major step in the right direction,” Simpson continued. “The Specialized Code encourages all new construction to be more sustainable from the time it is built, which is much easier and less expensive than retrofitting buildings later. It is the right thing to do for homeowners and renters, as well as for the environment.”
The primary changes in the new code specify that new construction meet several conditions that promote sustainability. New buildings that use fossil fuels must prewire for future electrical needs, including building heating, water heating, cooking, clothes drying and electric vehicle charging. If a gas furnace is installed, the building must have the wiring capability for an electric heat pump. New buildings that use fossil fuels must also install solar panels onsite.
New single-family homes greater than 4,000 square feet must be all electric or certified zero energy, where solar panels offset energy usage. New large multi-family developments greater than 12,000 square feet must use “passive house” design principles that take the local climate into account in order to maintain comfortable temperatures and be energy efficient.
A press release from the Sustainable Green Committee noted that a greenhouse gas inventory of Hopkinton showed that approximately half of the town’s emissions arise from its residential, commercial and municipal buildings. At the pace of a typical development year in Hopkinton, where 30 to 40 housing units are constructed, more than 10% of the town’s projected housing units that are projected to exist in town have not yet been built. Implementing the code now will impact the town’s overall future emissions.
The proposed replacement building for the Elmwood School, which also will be debated at the STM, is planned to be an all-electric building to comply with the specialized stretch code.