In an article published in the Boston Globe on November 12, 2010, it was reported that the City of Boston is proposing more stringent energy-efficiency building codes for new buildings in Boston. These new codes would result in a 20% reduction in energy use compared with buildings adhering to the existing building codes. These new buildings could incorporate various ideas to reduce power consumption, including improved design to take advantage of natural light, better insulation, and advanced technologies for heating and cooling systems. No doubt that this is good news for the environment, but is it good news for the contractors?
The Builders Association of Greater Boston is concerned that these new codes will limit already accepted, prevalent design options and increase building costs at a time when the building sector is being hard hit by the economically difficult atmosphere in the Massachusetts. These new codes may impact the number of new construction projects due to increased costs of the project.
If developers face increasing costs during the construction of more energy efficient buildings, are funding mechanisms in place to defray some of these costs? Potentially the answer will lie with efforts by the State or regional planning agencies. It remains to be seen what the impact that various grant programs may have (e.g. the Metropolitan Area Planning Council received a $4 million federal grant to promote sustainable development). Additional good news for the developer is noted in a report by Dutch economist Nils Kok on his website (www.nilskok.com) who studied the economies associated with U.S. LEED or Energy Star buildings. Mr. Kok concluded that these energy efficient buildings sell for approximately 13 percent more than other comparable buildings, have a higher occupancy rate and charge three percent more in rent.