Thomas Loesch, Estimating Director

We’ve hit it. A perfect storm. Over the past few years, we’ve all seen the costs of construction rising, inflation rates getting higher and recently coinciding with the Massachusetts State Energy Code updates, all of which are inadvertently affecting the cost of conversions, new construction and building additions. It’s the #1 challenge our clients have been coming to us in recent months.

To give a little background on these updates, Massachusetts is known for having some of the most stringent energy codes in the country. The Commonwealth is committed to updating and promoting ways to be more sustainable and energy efficient when it comes to building and construction. The most recent round of updates taking effect in 2023 include requiring higher insulating values for exterior walls, roofs and windows as well as switching to electric for heating and cooling.

Requirements for new buildings are rather straightforward, but renovations are where we are seeing the codes tripping things up more. Triggers for energy code compliance for renovations can be a building’s change of use, the request or requirement for more electricity or energy to a building, along with any exterior improvements – especially when it is just a portion of a building.

Renovations are where we are seeing expectations with cost and schedule can go awry, as project designs are in a state of reaction versus a proactive design recommendation. How much you have to do and how far you have to go is the crux of the issue, which differs from town-to-town and city-to-city throughout Massachusetts.

So, how are we helping our clients? Here are four ways:

  1. Evaluating buildings before any decisions are made. We help during building and space selection to give budgets so clients go in with any long-term plans with eyes wide open. Depending on the initial intent of a building and the end goal of the new facility, there can be an advantage to starting from scratch instead of trying to retrofit a new use into an existing building.
  2. Engaging with our subcontractors early. Things like windows and electric heat pumps are a small example of what needs to be sourced early, usually as part of a pre-release package, to ensure the codes are complied with and schedules are met. We work with vendors to solidify the best pricing and options depending on the situation.
  3. Engaging Code/Envelope consultants.  Many towns have different interpretations of the MA 2024 energy code, so each project needs to be treated differently. We have relationships with many consultants that help clients manage the process of understanding HERS scores (index) and how it affects their build.
  4. Using Mass Save to offset cost increases. This statewide program gives rebates and incentives to spec and install specific equipment fitting the perimeters of the energy codes. We’ve worked with clients to save thousands of dollars on their projects by identifying which equipment would work for projects while qualifying for available rebates.

We know these energy codes can be a lot to decipher, in addition to all the other elements of design and construction projects. Whatever your challenges, our team comes with a solution-oriented approach to help you understand how to comply and get the most value for your dollar. Reach out to me with any questions, we’re happy to help.

Summary of State of Massachusetts Energy Codes
Mass Save Information