While municipal buildings are responsible for a small percentage of community-wide emissions, it is important for the Town of Natick to show leadership on measures to maximize existing and future building energy performance.
As a municipality, we strive to implement clean energy and climate change programs within our own buildings and operations, and seek opportunities to accelerate the construction of zero emissions buildings.
Leading by Example with Public Buildings
Natick has completed more than 100 energy performance improvement projects in local public buildings, and has reduced emissions from public buildings by nearly 50% since 2010.
New projects are identified and implemented by the Facilities and Sustainability Departments using a "zero over time" philosophy. This approach involves: goal setting, establishing a baseline, planning for energy improvement projects, regularly analyzing improvement opportunities, implementing projects, and tracking progress.
Energy projects are regularly supported by state and federal grants and utility incentives, which help offset the cost of necessary capital improvements. In 2023, Natick was the only Massachusetts community to be awarded a Renew America Schools grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Sustainability Department regularly reviews and applies for new funding opportunities to support this work. In total, the Sustainability Department has secured more than $3M in grants for energy-related building projects.
Advancing Net Zero New Construction
Improving Energy Performance through the Building Code
To reach Natick’s Net Zero goals, the Town must pivot toward more sustainable construction. One way to do this is through building energy codes.
The design and construction of buildings in Massachusetts is governed by state law, and communities can choose from three state-defined Building Energy Codes: the Base Code, the Stretch Code and the Specialized Code. Of these, Natick is currently a Stretch Code community, which emphasizes energy performance and cost-effective construction that increases the efficiency of new buildings, additions, and renovations.
In 2024, Natick is considering adoption of the Specialized Code, which is designed to ensure new residential and commercial construction is consistent with Natick and Massachusetts's greenhouse gas reduction goals. This code is similar to the Stretch Code, but introduces higher energy performance standards for new construction — there are no additional requirements for alterations, renovations, or additions.
The Specialized code is not a net-zero energy code. Rather, it’s a stepping stone on the pathway toward that goal and helps move architects, developers, and builders in the direction of higher energy performance standards. It does not ban fossil fuels, but instead encourages (but does not mandate) all-electric buildings. Overall, it achieves this by requiring mixed-fuel, new construction to 1) be pre-wired to support future conversion to electricity and 2) include a minimum amount of solar power, unless the building meets Passive House standards. For specifics on Specialized Code and other Massachusetts Building Energy Code requirements by building type, please visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/building-energy-code.
The Town of Natick regularly reviews and provides guidance on plans for new construction, and works with builders to ensure code requirements are considered from the start. A growing number of external resources are also available to support builders, and the Town strives to connect builders to educational and funding opportunities.
- Energy Code Compliance Training: The Sponsors of Mass Save provides free, regular in-person and online building energy code training sessions for all Massachusetts code officials and building professionals. (Access the training calendar here .) Many training sessions meet continuing education requirements, which may include credits for Massachusetts code officials, AIA, NARI, RESNET, BPI, and CSL.
- Technical Support: The Sponsors of Mass Save also offer a toll-free number for technical assistance for code officials and others who have attended an energy code training session. Call 1-855-757-9717 or email questions to email@example.com.
- Passive House and All-Electric Homes Training: The Sponsors of Mass Save, in partnership with Passive House Massachusetts, offer training to support workforce development and market transformation in the energy efficiency and building construction industries.
- Passive House Builder Certification:
An increasing amount of financial incentives, tax rebates, and other programs exist to help offset the cost of building for sustainability as part of new construction. These include, but are not limited to:
- Mass Save incentives of up to $40,000 and technical assistance to support homeowners in the construction of new, all-electric homes.
- Up to $10,000 in Mass Save pay for savings incentives for incorporating high-performance upgrades into the renovations and additions of existing homes, or new construction homes.
- Special incentives and technical assistance for buildings designed with Passive House standards.
- The New Energy Efficient Home Credit, which provides up to $5,000 to developers to build energy efficient single-family homes and units in multi-family buildings. More specific information about the Act is available on the Mass Save Inflation Reduction Acts FAQs.
Note, many additional rebates and incentives are available to support solar, heat pumps and other clean energy technology for existing buildings. The above resources are focused on new construction only.