Proposed building code promotes energy efficiency
A proposed building code that would require the Island's new construction and major renovations to be more energy-efficient was the focus of a presentation Monday night at the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) offices.
Kate Warner, director of the Vineyard Energy Project, and Stephen Kanipe, the building inspector in Aspen, Colorado, presented an overview of VineyardBuild, a code they drafted together. Although based on Aspen's Efficient Building Code, which has been in place since 1999, VineyardBuild is tailored for the Island's building types and energy considerations, they said.
The current nationally accepted green building rating system is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a third-party certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. There are LEED rating systems for all different kinds of buildings, including retail, commercial, healthcare, schools, and homes.
Ms. Warner said that although LEED is similar to VineyardBuild in some ways, it addresses more than energy efficiency. VineyardBuild is a performance-based code.
Like LEED, applicants will have choices about how to construct their structure to achieve a required number of points. However, the two key goals for the building envelope are a weather-tight shell and good insulation, Ms. Warner said, with renewable energy as the icing on the cake.
Increased energy usage in larger structures would be offset by more energy efficiency requirements.
Since buildings account for 54 percent of the Vineyard's energy use, Ms. Warner pointed out, a more progressive building code could have a significant impact on the Island's energy footprint.
To make comparisons, she provided a chart showing the components of the state's residential building code, EnergyStar, LEED, and VineyardBuild. The chart and the VineyardBuild Code are available online at vineyardenergyproject.org.
Ms. Warner said she envisions VineyardBuild as an energy efficiency overlay, which could be accomplished through the Martha's Vineyard Commission's District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) process.
Her proposal comes at a time when the Martha's Vineyard Commission has been working on a draft energy and environmental building policy for developments of regional impact that would add LEED and Energy Star requirements to certain projects, according to size. The MVC plans to hold a public hearing about the policy, but has not set a date yet.
The audience at Monday night's presentation included Island architects, planners, and commissioners who serve on the Martha's Vineyard Commission's Land-Use Planning Committee.
John Abrams of South Mountain Company, a leader in affordable housing development, pointed out that grant programs are available to help defray the costs of LEED certification, which has become a standard for affordable housing projects. Those grants would not be available for VineyardBuild. "I would hate to see a layered approach in which we had to comply with several approaches - it ought to be either or," he said.
Mr. Kanipe countered that "either or" is a Solomon-like answer. VineyardBuild is tailored for the Island, while LEED for Homes is written for 50 states. "I advocate for home-grown," he said.
Ms. Warner suggested that Island architects and builders go through a trial exercise calculating some of their projects based on the VineyardBuild code and then give her their feedback.
Martha's Vineyard Commission executive director Mark London agreed with her idea. "That way if the general public has concerns about what this will mean, you can show them actual projects and how they rate in the points system," he told Ms. Warner.
She and Mr. Kanipe planned to repeat their presentation for the Island's planning boards on Tuesday night. Details about Aspen's Efficient Building Code are available at aspenpitkin.com.