HARWICH — The town's Green Communities designation is paying off.
The Baker-Polito Administration on Thursday announced that Harwich was among 30 municipalities across the state designated as Green Communities. The town received a $152,910 grant, part of $4,866,648 in grants awarded by the administration to recognized communities' commitment to reduce energy consumption and contribute to a healthier environment.
The town approved two provisions necessary to receive the Green Communities designation in its annual town meeting last May, adopting the Stretch Energy Code, which provides more energy efficient alternatives than the existing Base Energy Code for new building structures. Voters also adopted a zoning bylaw allowing large-scale, ground-mounted photovoltaic arrays with the review of the planning board. The bylaw created a “Solar Farm Overlay District” on eight acres owned by the town at the former town landfill site and added large-scale, ground-mounted photovoltaic arrays to the bylaw's use table. The town also purchased it first electric vehicle this past summer.
“These 30 newly designated communities are pledging to join in responsible stewardship of the environment and taxpayer resources while creating a cleaner, healthier Commonwealth for our residents and businesses,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a press release.
“With today's designation, the Green Communities program continues to prove an effective tool in building a clean energy future for the Commonwealth and achieving our Global Warming Solutions Act goals,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton added.
As of Jan. 1, the Harwich Building Department began implementing the Stretch Energy Code, which applies to new construction projects in town. Building Commissioner Ray Chesley said additions, renovations and repairs to residential and commercial buildings remain under the base energy code, not the updated stretch code.
“I don't think it's going to have a major impact, except for new construction,” Chesley said this week.
New construction projects will require hiring a certified Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater, who assesses the use of insulation, the use of energy equipment and windows used in a construction project.
One benefit of using HERS ratings for compliance with the Stretch Energy Code is that builders do not have to install specific energy efficiency measures; rather they have the flexibility to choose which energy efficiency measures to install and how to design the home in order to meet the HERS rating target.
There are trade offs, Chesley said. For instance, if a specific energy-saving heating system is used, windows might be able to be offset somewhat by the HERS rater, who will also monitor and test for air leakage and other factors during a building project.
Many builders are familiar with the Stretch Energy Code because other towns are already members of the Green Communities program; 240 municipalities across the state have the designation. There is a cost associated with hiring a HERS rater, Chesley said, estimating it could add between $1,000 and $2,000 to a project. Some builders here are already using the Stretch Energy Code because their clients have requested that energy efficiency, he said. Savings from energy efficiency over time usually offsets the extra costs, he added.