New Town Energy Code Set to Start

Posted on 26 September 2008


After nearly two months of tweaking, special meetings, public hearings and work sessions, the Southampton Town board has finally taken some legislative action on the new green codes they adopted earlier this year. In a unanimous decision last night, the board adopted new amendments to the original legislation.

The new energy codes the Southampton town board adopted on July 22 go into effect next week in an effort to reduce the town’s carbon footprint. The original energy codes, sponsored by councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, included a minimum home energy rating system (HERS) score for all new construction and substantial renovations (the bigger the home the higher the score that must be attained) and mandated the use of solar energy to heat pools.

But the proposed codes created an outcry in the building and pool industries. At the time of adoption, the town board agreed to explore the possibility of further amending the original law.

The amendments to the legislation presented at the public hearing on Tuesday included changes to the effective date for substantially reconstructed homes — from October 1, 2008 to October 1, 2009. The amendments also changed the original legislation’s four-tiered approach for HERS to three-tiers for the next year. On Tuesday, the board adopted the three-tier approach with a required HERS rating of 90 for houses over 4,5000 square feet. The fourth tier, which requires a 95 HERS rating for houses over 6,500 square feet, will go into effect on October 1, 2009.

“We have to balance and take all interests into consideration,” said supervisor Linda Kabot on Tuesday.

Despite much debate in recent weeks over the legislation, everyone seemed to be on the same page Tuesday night. Many of the builders and architects who had voiced concerns in the past attended a two day conference held by LIPA and the chief building inspector, Michael Benincasa and came away with a better understanding of what was expected of them with the code.

Architect Rick Stott attended the conference and said it was proof to the AIA (American Institute of Architects) that this new law is achievable.

“I am disappointed with the delay,” Stott said on Tuesday, “The end result is a savings for the homeowner.”

Throne-Holst explained that even though homeowners can get rebates from LIPA for installing energy saving measures, there are other considerable state and federal rebates that will encourage people to want to update their homes to the energy star requirements.

Throne-Holst also says that a high energy star rated home will pay for itself in 20 years.

Bob DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End and a member of Southampton Town’s green committee, commended the board for taking control of the legislation, which he had recommended they do at previous meetings.

“There are a lot of unknowns, and we pleaded with you to take control even though this legislation may not be perfect,” he said.

“Adopting the bill will be the strongest on long Island and possibly the state,” said DeLuca, “and you owe it to all of us to commit to another work session after six months to see how we are doing — and if we stay with this we will develop an energy code that is probably second to none.”

“Let’s pass the bill, let’s get to work, and let’s not debate it for another year,” DeLuca said on Tuesday.

Linda Kabot said she would be happy to revisit the legislation in the spring to see how things are working.

The new amendments also push the effective date for the solar heating mandate back to January 1, 2009 from October 1, 2008, and exempts indoor pools from the mandate.

“There will be a separate hearing in December to work on a comprehensive code and allow for the considerable controversy on pool heating requirements,” noted Kabot.

“We are in favor of this law – but we have a problem with the way it is written,” said John T. Tortorella, owner of Tortorella Pools. He originally voiced his concerns with the solar heating mandate at the last public hearing, but said he is now happy with the amendments which will allow him more time to work with the board on a comprehensive model for energy efficiency.

With the amendments, the chief building inspector will have the authority to downgrade HERS ratings for houses where the site may not be compatible with renewable energy technologies. The legislation also adds an appeals process for determinations made by the building inspector. Appeals will be heard by the chairman of the architectural review board, the town engineer and the chief environmental analyst.

Kabot said that the board needs more time to consider the implementation of the HERS rating legislation for substantially reconstructed homes based on the total square footage of all conditioned space. Citing finished basements in general, and her own in particular, Kabot said she did not know they would be included in a home’s measurement of square footage.

 “If it looks like a duck, it’s a duck,” said Benincasa, referring to partially finished basements.

Beginning next week, new homes up to 3,500 square feet will be required to reach a HERS rating of 84 before issuance of a building permit. New construction of houses between 3,501 and 4,500 square feet will be required to have the HERS certificate of 87 or higher, and for all new homes larger than 4,5000 square feet a 90 HERS rating will be required before building permits are issued.

Next year on October 1, 2009, all new dwellings and substantial reconstruction of homes between 4,501 and 6,500 will need to reach a 90 HERS rating or higher, but for new dwellings over 6,500 square feet, a 95 HERS rating or above must be attained. 

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