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The two tallest buildings in Boston, 200 Clarendon Street (formerly known as the John Hancock Tower), right, and the Pruidential Tower, seen from One Dalton Street . (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Construction News: Boston to adopt energy-efficient ‘stretch’ building codes, Wu says

Boston has recently taken a significant step towards reducing its carbon footprint by adopting energy-efficient “stretch” building codes. This move aligns with the city’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2050 and is expected to lead to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, which are a significant contributor to the city’s overall carbon emissions. The new codes will require all new buildings and major renovations to be designed and constructed to significantly exceed the current state energy code, making Boston a leader in energy-efficient building design and a model for other cities to follow.

This post reprinted from WBUR explore the benefits of the new stretch codes, the challenges they present, and what they mean for the future of sustainable building design in Boston and beyond.

Boston would adopt a new, voluntary energy-efficient building code that would require new construction be wired for all-electric use under a plan pitched by Mayor Michelle Wu on Thursday.

If approved by the City Council, the climate friendly standards would apply to new buildings and major renovations.

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“It will increase energy efficiency, reduce emissions and advance our overall carbon neutrality goals,” Wu said in a press conference.

The new “stretch” codes, enacted last year by former Gov. Charlie Baker, have different energy efficiency requirements for various building types, and require that all newly constructed homes be all-electric, or pre-wired so they can become all-electric in the future.

Buildings are responsible for 70% of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions — 50% of those coming from residential buildings. The new code will help reach requirements already in place for large buildings to reduce emissions gradually to net zero by 2050.

“The specialized stretch energy code creates much more efficient buildings with a simpler code that will ensure that new buildings in Boston are all electric or electric ready on day one,” said Oliver Sellers-Garcia, Boston’s Green New Deal director.

The city needs different strategies for existing buildings, he said.

“Eighty-five percent of the square footage that we have today is still going to be around in 2050,” Sellers-Garcia said. “We need to work on the buildings that we have now and bring them into the next generation.”

Wu also announced a new program to make existing affordable housing greener. The new Large Building Green Energy Retrofits Program will use $10 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to provide up to $50,000 per unit for energy retrofits for affordable housing buildings with 15 or more units.

The Brian Honan Apartments in Allston will be the first to undergo renovations. Its heating and cooling will be made fully electric. The building will also get a new insulation system, including a new roof and windows.

“Heating and cooling will all be fully electric powered and new ventilation will be added to provide fresh air to every unit,” Wu said. “Taken together, these changes will cut the building’s energy consumption by nearly half.”

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