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What to Expect from the Massachusetts Energy Code in 2023

Massachusetts is leading the way for Building Energy Code updates in 2023

Energy codes are rarely the hot topic of design discussions and yet, they heavily influence a range of building design decisions. This is especially true in Massachusetts which, since 2009, has led the nation in energy conservation and efficiency efforts with an augmented, or “stretch” energy code that has been adopted by 300 (90%) of cities and towns. 2023 marks the roll-out of an even more ambitious effort that will keep the Commonwealth on its net zero energy path to 2050. Below is a brief overview of what to expect for your future projects going into 2023 and beyond.

Roll out of the updated Massachusetts Code started in January 2023 and includes a new, Specialized Opt-in Energy Code with additional requirements that municipalites can adopt. The milestones for these updates are approximated below; we’re expecting:

  • The new Base Energy Code will be effective July 2023, affecting municipalities that haven’t adopted the Stretch Code and will include updates such as adjustments to the 2021 version of the International Energy Conservation Code and mandatory EV parking for new projects.
  • The new Stretch Code updates will automatically go into effect for all communities that have previously adopted the Stretch Code. Residential projects under 20,000 SF will be affected as early the start of 2023 with other projects following suit in July 2023. One major change from previous versions of the Stretch Code is that it will now apply to small projects and renovations that were previously exempt. The new code also sets significantly higher requirements for heating and cooling loads, which can be responsible for 60% of a building’s energy use. Starting July 2024, residential projects will need to achieve a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating of at least 42 or 45 depending on building systems – about a 20% reduction from the original requirements.
  • As of December 2022, municipalities have the option to vote for adoption of a new Specialized Opt-in Energy Code that adds requirements to the Stretch Code. These include pre-wiring for all electric systems, Passive House compliance for residential uses, and rooftop solar for some projects.

Massachusetts Energy Code Timeline 2023


For the three hundred municipalities that use the Stretch Code standards, most projects will need to be designed and built to Passive House Standards. Typical features of Passive House projects might include elements such as:

  • Increased air-tightness and on-site performance testing, eliminating drafts
  • Continuous insulation and air barriers, keeping homes warmer in winter and cooler in summer
  • Careful attention to minimizing thermal bridging
  • High-performance windows and doors, that are not cold to the touch during winter months
  • High-efficiency ventilation and energy recovery, providing filtered fresh air at a minimal cost
  • Higher quality and more durable construction due to on-site inspections


As these new building codes go into effect, architects, developers, and construction management companies will need to rely on the expertise of Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) professionals on many of their projects. CPHC architects and designers are trained to integrate building design principles with energy-use best practices right from project kick-off and CambridgeSeven is fortunate to have three on our staff.


New Heating and Cooling Limits

The new code changes will come new limits on the energy used for building heating and cooling systems, which consume the majority of the energy for a building.  As design professionals, we strive to lower the energy use intensity of all our buildings, and the new code will dramatically help in those efforts.

The updated Massachusetts Stretch Code allows specific TEDI (Thermal Energy Demand Intensity) limits based on project type. As you can see in the chart below, the new code significantly reduces these levels. To achieve these new regulations, many projects will be designed to Passive House standards or use the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) standards for residential projects.

Massachusetts Energy Code Sectors 2023
Based on MA Building Code 225 CMR 23 Table C407.1.1.5. https://www.mass.gov/doc/225-cmr-22-ma-commercial-front-end-amend-clean-december-8-2022/download


Anticipated Project Costs

As architects, to reach these new rigorous energy goals we will continue our decades-long commitment to excellence in design by increasing our focus on beautiful and thermally sound building envelopes and systems. We are thinking about building form, orientation, and façade design to passively improve efficiency and enhance building envelopes to reduce the demand on mechanical systems. We know that the bottom line is important to our clients and understand that these changes can initially appear in conflict with project budgets. Fortunately, these code changes can make good financial sense and help projects qualify for a variety of state and federal incentives that have been created to encourage further efficiency measures and help offset costs.

Massachusetts Energy Code Cost Savings 2023
Data from DOER February 8th presentation. https://www.mass.gov/doc/building-energy-code-straw-proposal-updated-stretch-code-specialized-opt-in-code-feb-2022/download Additional info about the performance metrics and cost analysis by Consigli can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/lists/stretch-energy-code-development-support-documentation


The chart above shows the projected cost of code changes based on project type. The upfront construction cost is likely to have small increases for project types like schools, small offices and multi-family residential. However, we are likely to see upfront cost savings for large offices and labs, which historically required large, heavy-duty mechanical equipment that will now be smaller and more efficient. We expect the new standards will also improve the overall life-cycle costs of all project types because these buildings use less energy for heating and cooling. It’s clear, too, that these changes mean significant reductions in GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.


For more information, see these resources below:

More info on the state code updates: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/stretch-energy-code-development-2022#new!-release-of-final-code-language-for-stretch-code-update-and-new-specialized-stretch-code-

Mass Save: https://www.masssave.com/en/business/programs-and-services/new-construction-and-major-renovations

Passive House Institute US:





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