In Massachusetts and probably elsewhere around the country, towns and cities are trying to do their part to make the world a ‘greener’ place.¬†Although the role of municipal politics and local social action in green matters are not well defined beyond the 3Rs of post-consumer waste management, zoning and land use control and some disastrous anti-herbicide experiments on playing fields, some towns in central Massachusetts are stepping up the expectation and activism. Some towns are changing the energy conservation standards in the building codes, making them 20% stricter than required by the state.

Of course, I didn’t know that towns could legislate building codes and interesting enough, building codes do change over time as new materials, methods and technologies become widely available and property owners, contractors and architects adjust accordingly.

However, the 20% tightening is actually a huge change for these people, especially during a recession. They will need to go through training to deliver on these standards. To make matters worse, the codes are changing in some towns spread throughout the region but not others, reducing competition for contractors and architects in those towns. The contractors and architects without the training will not be able to get those jobs in those towns, because they will not be qualified for such a job.

Another side-effect for this 20% increase is that in those particular towns, buildings will cost more to construct, since the contractors have to recoup their training expense and since the higher standards use more materials. Special doors, windows, more, higher quality insulation will be needed, which will cost more than the run-of-the-mill performance products.

Yes, the new building will cost less to operate and there will be less carbon-emissions because of these tougher standards. Do we really need to make it more costly to be a builder or to build a building in this state right now?


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