Massachusetts Net Zero Stretch Code Building Industry Support Letter

This web page hosts the Massachusetts Net Zero Stretch Code support letter, specifically written for individuals and organizations in the Massachusetts building industry to voice their support.  This web page also provides background information on this initiative, including: past legislation, progress on climate goals to date, and climate action advocacy in the Commonwealth. To read the letter, please click the button below to view the PDF. To add your name and/or your organization’s name by clicking on the “Sign the Letter” link.  You may select whether or not your name or organization is displayed on this web page, or simply included in the final letter submitted. Approved names and organization logos will be added to this web page every Friday afternoon.*

Call to Action for Individuals and Organizations in the Massachusetts Building Industry

Now is a pivotal moment.  Net Zero Stretch Code legislation has been proposed in the Massachusetts House and Senate, and draft code language is currently being developed by the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS).  The Net Zero Stretch Code is currently the greatest single opportunity to support reduced building emissions in MA. There is momentum behind the Net Zero Stretch Code, but it is far from guaranteed that it will be implemented.  A demonstration of Massachusetts building industry support has a crucial role to play to ensure success. 

As individuals and organizations in the Massachusetts building industry, our position on this issue carries significant weight.  Therefore, we ask that you join us in signing onto the Net Zero Stretch Code support letter, shown below. 

Please note that the details of the Net Zero Stretch Code will require a concerted effort to develop, and should include input from building industry professionals.  Details may include: how Net Zero is defined, what metrics are used, what strategies and criteria are included, and an appropriate timeline for implementation. Through the consensus-building process, and based on many successful built examples, we are confident that a Net Zero Stretch Code will be developed that is flexible and easily achievable with today’s technology, results in net financial savings to building owners, enhances public health, results in greater resilience, and supports economic growth in the Commonwealth.  But, it would be premature to advocate for specific requirements at this time. Therefore, this letter does not address any specific suggestions. Our letter simply calls for a Net Zero Stretch Code to be developed and promulgated because it is a critical component of Massachusetts leading the way toward a livable climate. 

For those who would prefer to write their own custom letter, please feel free to copy and edit the text below to your satisfaction, sign and send separately.

Legislative Background

The Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Acts (GWSA) was signed into law in August of 2008, requiring a GHG reduction below 1990 levels of between 10% and 25% by 2020 and a reduction of 80% by 2050 (1).  In 2010, Former Secretary Ian Bowles set the 2020 limit at 25% and published the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, laying out the measures necessary to meet the 2020 limit (2).  Since then, the state claims to be on-track to meet the required 2020 emissions reduction of 25% (3).

Is the Commonwealth On-Track? 

As noted above, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts claims to be on-track to meet the required 2020 emissions reduction of 25%.  The majority of the Commonwealth’s emission reductions to date are due to electric utility generation fuel switching from petroleum and coal to natural gas (4).  Unfortunately, Massachusetts’ accounting methodology neglects to account for upstream methane leakage at extraction sites and distribution in other states which is approximately 9.5% (6) (an order of magnitude greater than the leakage within the state of MA, which is published at 0.6% to 1.1% (7)).  It also does not include leakage at the end use locations, which further compounds the underestimation of GHG emissions (8).

In addition, Massachusetts’ GHG accounting methodology uses a global warming potential value of 25 for methane, based on the 100-year timescale listed in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) (9).  Considering that the imperative to address climate change is on a much shorter timescale than 100 years, environmental organizations, such as Environmental Defense Fund advocate for also reporting GHG emissions based on a 20-year timescale (10), which more than triples the global warming potential of methane emissions to 84 (11).

If the Massachusetts’ emissions accounting were to include upstream and end use methane leakage and account for the 20-year global warming potential value for methane, it would be clear that the Commonwealth is falling short of the 25% reduction goal for 2020.

Climate Action in Massachusetts

Over 200 organizations in Massachusetts have joined forces, creating the Mass Power Forward coalition (12).  By joining forces, they are able to focus their efforts and have a stronger, unified voice.  They are working to support legislation and executive action that addresses the three major sources of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in Massachusetts: electricity generation, transportation, and buildings.  In the process, they also promote resilience, climate equity, and economic growth.

As a member of Mass Power Forward, the non-profit Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) (13) is the point-organization focused on reducing building emissions.  MCAN has highlighted the fact that in Massachusetts, commercial and residential building operations (including on-site combustion and electricity consumption) represent nearly half of total greenhouse gas emissions (14).  MCAN has identified Net Zero buildings as a critical component of the path to carbon neutrality for the Commonwealth.  

Net Zero Stretch Code

Many communities in Massachusetts are interested in Net Zero community planning and Net Zero buildings.  It is important to note that under the current regulations, towns and cities in Massachusetts cannot adopt a Net Zero code, because they must follow the state-wide codes promulgated by the Board of Building Regulation and Standards (BBRS).

Therefore, MCAN has worked with legislators and the BBRS to propose a Net Zero Stretch Code.  There is currently a proposed bill in both the Massachusetts House and Senate that, if ratified will raise the bar on the Stretch Code to require Net Zero for applicable new buildings by 2030 (15).  In addition, witnessing the upswell of support, Chair Couture of the BBRS recently directed the Energy Advisory Committee that reports to the BBRS to develop a draft of the Net Zero Stretch Code.

Now is a pivotal moment.  The Net Zero Stretch Code is currently the greatest single opportunity to support reduced building emissions in MA.  There is momentum behind the Net Zero Stretch Code, but it is far from guaranteed that it will be implemented. A demonstration of industry support will play a crucial role in ensuring success.

Citations & Footnotes

1. Global Warming Solutions Act Background

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/global-warming-solutions-act-background 

2. Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020
https://www.mass.gov/service-details/clean-energy-and-climate-plan-for-2020

3. MA GHG Emissions Trends

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/ma-ghg-emission-trends

4. MA GHG Emissions Trends:  MA CO2 by Fuel Combusted

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/ma-ghg-emission-trends

5. Responses to Comments on the Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level: 1990 Baseline and 2020 Business as Usual Projection Update

https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/09/or/gwsa-rtc-16.pdf

6. Methane Emissions and Climatic Warming Risk from Hydraulic Fracturing and Shale Gas Development: implications for Policy

http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/publications/f_EECT-61539-perspectives-on-air-emissions-of-methane-and-climatic-warmin_100815_27470.pdf

7. Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, 2015 Update

https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2017/12/06/Clean%20Energy%20and%20Climate%20Plan%20for%202020.pdf

8. Large Fugitive Methane Emissions from Urban Centers Along the U.S. East Coast

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019GL082635

9. Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level: 1990 Baseline and 2020 Business as Usual Projection Update  https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/11/xv/gwsa-update-16.pdf

10. Paper Proposes Two-Value Reporting Standard for Global Warming Potential

https://www.edf.org/media/paper-proposes-two-value-reporting-standard-global-warming-potential

11. IPCC AR5 Chapter 8, Appendix 8.A: Lifetimes, Radiative Efficiencies and Metric Values

https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_Chapter08_FINAL.pdf

12. Mass Power Forward Website

http://mapowerforward.com/

13. Massachusetts Climate Action Network Website

https://www.massclimateaction.org/

14. MA GHG Emissions Trends

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/ma-ghg-emission-trends

15. Bill H.2865 / S.1935

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H2865  / https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S1935

Firms in Support

Soden Sustainability Consulting

ZeroEnergy Design

Sustainable IQ, Inc.

CA Design Studio LLC

Gorman Richardson Lewis Architects

Big Bend Studio Architects

Trotti & Associates, Inc.