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 Committee Report

Committee Report #1


In City Council December 21, 2009

Councillor Henrietta Davis, Chair  
Councillor Craig Kelley  
Vice Mayor Sam Seidel  

The Health and Environment Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday December 9, 2009 at five o'clock and eight minutes p.m. in the Sullivan Chamber.

The purpose of the public hearing was to discuss the Stretch Energy Code (SEC).

Present at the public hearing were Councillor Henrietta Davis, Chair of the Committee, Vice Mayor Sam Seidel, Councillor David Maher, Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Beth Rubenstein, Assistant City Manager for Community Development, Susan Glazer, Deputy Director of Community Development, John Bolduc, Environmental Project Planner, Community Development, Iram Farooq, Project Planner, Community Development Department, Ranjit Singanayagam, Commissioner, Inspectional Services, Dave Burns, Inspector, Inspectional Services, Charles Sullivan, Executive Director, Historical Commission, Sarah Burks, Historical Commission, Penny Peters, Aide to Councillor Davis and Deputy City Clerk, Donna P. Lopez.

Also present were Marc Breslow and Ian Finlayson, State Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Janet Curtis, Department of Energy and CEP member, Terrence Smith, Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Karen Sommerlad and Joseph Migliosi, Harvard University, Maureen McCaffrey, MIT, Amy Meltzer, 45 Antrim Street, Jason Cohen, 221 Hampshire Street, Betsy Boyle, 277 Rindge Avenue, Paul Morse, Morse Construction, 24 Beech Street, Larry Bluestone, 700 Mass. Avenue, Paul Tammaro, Paul Chapple, Tom Stohlman, Frank Shirley, Bob Andrews, Emily Talcott, and Jamie Lee. S & H Construction.

Councillor Davis opened the public hearing and explained the purpose.  She outlined the format of the public hearing.  A presentation would be made by the Community Development Department regarding the SEC and then the hearing would be opened to public comment.

Ms. Glazer informed the public that the SEC is an appendix (120.AA) to the State Building Code offered as an option for communities to adopt.  (ATTACHMENTS A and B)  The SEC would produce 20% more energy efficient buildings that the base code.  Cambridge is interested in adopting the SEC.  Ms. Glazer explained that there is a concurrency period of six months after adoption before the SEC becomes effective.  SEC applies to both residential and commercial buildings.  For residential building there are two tracks for testing:  performance and prescriptive.  New construction requires using the performance track and must use the Home Energy Rating System (HERS).  Renovation work can use either the performance or prescriptive track.  The SEC applies to commercial new construction over 5,000 square feet and multi-family residential buildings that are four stories or taller.  Commercial buildings 100,000 square feet or larger and laboratories, supermarket and warehouses larger than 40,000 square feet must use energy modeling to show a 20% increased energy efficiency.  Commercial renovation is not subject to SEC.

Ms. Glazer explained the public process thusfar.  The CDD held two informational sessions to explain to the general public the SEC; one about commercial buildings and one about residential buildings.  There were 80 people who attended.  Comments from these sessions related to implementation and construction costs.  HERS raters must take a training program and must rate five buildings for certification.  There are a sufficient number of HERS raters.  The cost associated with new commercial construction is small but payback could be realized in three years.  The SEC gives points to LEED rating.  There were questions about the SEC and historical buildings.  Historically designated buildings are exempt from SEC.

Councillor Davis asked for comments from the State Executive Office of Energy and Environment.

Mr. Breslow informed the committee that the SEC contains the provisions of the existing code.  Newton is the only community that has adopted the SEC.  Mr. Finlayson added that the Department of Energy, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) Council and the Building Council have all endorsed the SEC.  The IECC endorsed the SEC for 2012.  The IECC takes effect January 1, 2010 and increases energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings by 20%.  The 2012 IECC will be close to SEC.  The state will provide free training state-wide to building inspectors and at-cost for building construction workers.

Councillor Maher asked since the SEC is optional and only one community has adopted the SEC, why did the Legislature send it back to cities and towns.  Councillor Davis stated that Cambridge required more stringent energy regulations but did not have the authority to achieve this so the state developed the SEC.  Local communities applied pressure.  Mr. Breslow added that the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) wanted standards.  The state wanted to have the same standards as other states and that is why the IECC was adopted.  The IECC provided uniformity.

At five o'clock and thirty minutes p.m. Councillor Davis opened the public hearing for public comment.

Janet Curtis, CEP member, Department of Energy, stated that she supported the SEC.  She was a member of the Governors Steering Committee.  The SEC is a step to increase energy efficiency and it is not much of a stretch.

Councillor Davis asked the Commissioner of Inspectional Services Mr. Singanayagam, the number of residential building that would be affected by the SEC.  Mr. Singanaygam responded eleven residential units and two commercial buildings would be affected if the SEC were adopted at this time.

Maureen McCaffrey, MIT, stated that she had questions relating to the LEED guidelines.  The LEED 2010 is different from the ASHRAE standard.  She asked how the energy related language would work in the SEC and LEED.

Terrence Smith, Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, read a prepared statement (ATTACHMENT C).  He requested that enactment of the SEC be delayed.

Tom Stohlman, architect, 19 Channing Street, informed the committee that he has attended HERS seminars.  Residential renovation can use the prescriptive method, which is the current method in the Building Code.  He stated that his concern is that there is only one HERS pressure test done after the building is built and if not passed it is harder to fix since the building is already sealed.  He stated that he prefers the prescriptive rather than the performance standard.  The HERS standard was established by a private company that sells its software for HERS.  He cannot tell his clients what they are required to do to get the HERS ranting for performance method.  There is no transparency.  He supports the energy efficiency goal but is not in favor of priority test owned by a private non-profit company.  He stated that there are not many HERS raters in the Cambridge/Boston area.

Frank Shirley, architect, 75 Henry Street, spoke on the residential component of the SEC.  He stated that there are many weaknesses as applied to residential construction.  In his opinion sustainability relates to materials used and how things work.  Work in Cambridge is mostly renovation or restoration and this will be captured in the SEC.  The prescriptive method will be used.  He stated that his concern is that the existing code uses the prescriptive method but requires a residential check.  He believes that the SEC prescriptive method eliminates the residential check and hinders innovation.  He used windows as an example.  The SEC would only require Energy Star windows.  Wood, sealant used and replacement parts are not evaluated in the Energy Star windows.  The block and tackle operating system used in the Energy Star windows is a low standard.  Technology changes and replacement parts will not be available.  The cost of the HERS rater keeps going up and incentives may go away.  The cost to the homeowner for the HERS rater can range from $900 - $2,000.  No analysis has been done on the need for HERS raters.  As an architect, he cannot do an evaluation because a HERS rater needs to be hired.  The training of the HERS rater is only one week.

Mayor Simmons stated that HERS training should be included in the green jobs training program.

Bob Andrews, a mechanical engineer who designs commercial buildings, stated that he is responsible for 15 LEED certified buildings, has worked on another 50 LEED projects and done energy models.  LEED has rules relating to the energy code; SEC does not contain the rules.  There is a gap in the direction on how to document and prove compliance with the energy model.  How are the energy models standardized, he asked?  Inspectors need a standard for what buildings can do and how much better the energy efficiency was achieved.  He stated that the SEC will not accomplish what is expected.

Jason Cohen, architect, 221 Hampshire Street, commented that the performance method in SEC is fraught with danger.  He noted that in the absence of a prescriptive method, a permit may not be given.  Is permit issued and certificate of occupancy dependent on HERS?

Jaime Lee, S & H Construction, stated that HERS is easy.  There is not much of a change with the specification of work.  HERS highlights defects in construction and has taught him what to watch out for.  He has concern about the requirement of materials used.  He cited the example of single glazed windows.  He commented about the expense to operate buildings being too costly.  He supported SEC.

Paul Morse, 24 Beech Street stated that he works in a residential remodeling firm.  He would use the prescriptive method.  He spoke about the sequencing of work relating to HERS.  HERS is a national standard.  He noted that there are times when the blower door test can be done throughout construction.  He urged the City Council to adopt the SEC.

Public comment ended at six o'clock and twenty-two minutes p. m.

Councillor Davis stated that the world is facing a climate emergency.  She supported adoption of the SEC.  She stated that she witnessed the blower door test done on her new house.  This is a different way to do business and to build a house.  Pipes without insulation are imperfections which cannot occur in the future.  It is important to move forward on this issue.

Vice Mayor Seidel stated that the baseline needed to be moved.  Builders feel confident that they can do the work. If improvement and increased efficiency is not seen what is the point.

A discussion occurred about incentive and rebates.  Mr. Breslow stated that the DPU has to rule on the utility energy plans and the ruling is expected in the future.  The plan proposes incentives.  Mr. Smith commented that rate payers pay for the incentives and could go away in the future.  The Attorney General protects rate payers and the utility companies are asking rate payers to subsidize these incentives.  Mr. Breslow informed the committee that the Attorney General is part of the energy council working to develop the utility plan.  Incentives go away.  The only way to change this is if the entire state adopts the SEC.  Ms. Curtis cited two legal precedents.  In California there is taxpayer money in incentives.  Incentives must be the same for communities which adopted SEC and those where SEC not adopted.  The second was that Boston adopted LEED incentives.

Mr. Finlayson spoke about residential buildings needing HERS rating.  There were 1,000 buildings with HERS rating on a voluntary basis.  There were 600 in Massachusetts last year.  Listed historical buildings are exempt from SEC.  Only systems that are being changed need to be brought up to code.  Old windows do not need to be replaced.  There is a thriving market for replacement of Energy Star windows.

Councillor Davis asked if the blower test fails what is the recourse.  Mr. Finlayson stated that the blower door test can be done before drywall is installed.  Ducts need to be tested.  This test allows builders to make corrections.

Councillor Davis stated that the state can be helpful with information on how the HERS works; it is presently not transparent.  More information is needed by the consumer.  Mr. Stohlman stated that designers need to know how to achieve the HERS rating.  Mr. Breslow stated that design specs are on the state website.  Software can also be purchased.  Mr. Finlayson agreed that a better job could be done by the state on consumer outreach.  There are free trainings on the Energy Star website.

Councillor Davis asked how LEED is achieved in the SEC.  Mr. Finlayson stated that SEC uses LEED standard.  The 2010 ASHRAE will use LEED and the state code and LEED will use the same standard going forward.  Mr. Smith commented that there is no LEED standard for energy for laboratories.  Ms. Farooq stated that energy building calculations are used for labs.  Ms. McCaffrey stated that the baseline is used when building a lab.  Lab certification is achieved using LEED for new buildings.

Charlie Sullivan, Executive Director, Historical Commission, asked for clarification that historical designed buildings are exempt from the SEC.  Mr. Finlayson informed Mr. Sullivan that the base code has an historical building exemption and the SEC states to see the base code.  The current and new code contains the historical building exemption. 

Councillor Davis made the following motion:

WHEREAS:  In May 2009 the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards adopted Appendix 120.AA, known as the Stretch Energy Code that provides a more energy efficient building code option for cities and towns than the base code; and

WHEREAS:  The Health and Environment Committee held a public meeting on July 28, 2009 to discuss the Stretch Energy Code; and

WHEREAS:  Pursuant to City Council Order Number Five of September 14, 2009 two informational sessions were held by the Community Development Department.  The informational session held on October 15, 2009 focused on residential buildings and the October 20, 2009 focused on commercial buildings; and

WHEREAS:  On November 23, 2009 the Community Development Department reported back to the City Council on these informational sessions.  Said report was referred to the City Council Health and Environment Committee which was designated by the City Council as the committee to hold the required public hearing on the Stretch Energy Code; and

WHEREAS:  Public notice and hearing requirements were fulfilled as follows: on December 3, 2009 the notice of the public hearing was published in the Cambridge Chronicle and on December 9, 2009 the public hearing was held by the Health and Environment Committee; and

WHEREAS:  It is the goal of the City of Cambridge to encourage energy efficiency using many strategies, both voluntary and required; now therefore be it

ORDERED:  That the Cambridge City Council go on record adopting the Stretch Energy Code which becomes effective July 1, 2010, the required six-month concurrency period between adoption and implementation.

The motion -


Councillor Davis thanked those present for their attendance.  She stated that this will be reported to the full City Council for consideration at its meeting of December 21, 2009.

The public hearing adjourned at six o'clock and fifty-seven minutes p. m.

For the Committee,

Councillor Henrietta Davis, Chair
Health and Environment Committee


View attached file


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