If you are planning a custom home, a significant remodeling project or addition to your existing home, Stretch Code may require you to do additional work and upgrades to meet strict energy efficiency codes. This can have a major impact on the planning process, and more importantly, the budget. From the mass.gov website:
1. What are the building energy code options for cities and towns in Massachusetts? Massachusetts cities and towns now have 3 related choices of stringency of building energy code. These are the ‘Base code’, the ‘Stretch code’, and the ‘Specialized code’. The minimum or ‘Base’ energy code is the latest version of the national model code – the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) with some amendments for Massachusetts. The base code is part of the building codes governed by the state Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS). In 2023 the base code is being updated from the 2018 IECC to the 2021 IECC, and MA amendments adding wiring/electrical upgrade for electric vehicles and maintaining solar ready roof requirements.
2. What is the Stretch code? The ‘Stretch code’ is a more energy efficient alternative to the base code. The 2023 update is the 3rd major update to the 2009 original Stretch code. The Stretch code increases the energy efficiency requirements for all new residential and commercial buildings, as well as for additions and renovations that require building permits. Municipalities started adopting the Stretch code in 2009; as of January 2023, 300 out of 351 Massachusetts cities and towns have adopted it. The Stretch code is now published and maintained by the Department of Energy Resources.
You can read more here: download (mass.gov)
Most homeowners are not familiar with stretch code or any other codes, so it’s important that you partner with a team of experts who can help you understand and navigate this process. Here at Masters Touch we are well versed in designing energy efficient new homes that will meet current regulations, and assessing and planning renovations to existing homes including full home remodels, additions, kitchens, in-law additions, finished basements, and other types of home projects.
For renovations and additions: the major factors that contribute to whether you may need stretch code upgrades to existing systems on your home are usually the addition of 1,000 sq/ft or more to your home, or a remodel that is more than 50% of the existing living space. However, there are a few exceptions, and we can help determine early on if one is needed. If the above scenario applies and your town is on this list, you are likely affected.
Also keep in mind, sometimes local building inspectors may require stretch code upgrades during projects on which construction has already started. Often there are unseen conditions hidden within walls such as inadequate insulation that requires replacement to meet new codes. This condition may not be discoverable until demolition is complete and may result in change orders during construction.
Some items that may need to be upgraded if you trigger stretch code requirements may include (but not limited to) replacing all the windows on your home, removing all the siding to insulate the walls from the outside and installing new siding (or gutting the interior to do the same), replacing the entire heating and cooling system, replacing all appliances, adding an electric car charger, and air sealing gaps and HVAC throughout the home. Even if you have appliances, windows or a heating system that are only a few years old, stretch code may mandate they need to be replaced.
Naturally this varies greatly from home to home, but we’ve seen some projects require over $100K above the original budget just to meet stretch code on existing systems in the home. If you are considering a renovation to your home or an addition, please keep this in mind as not only will it impact the budget, but it will also affect the timeline since more time will be required during design and planning.