East Hampton Urged To Adopt New Energy Efficiency Requirements For Large Homes - 27 East

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East Hampton Urged To Adopt New Energy Efficiency Requirements For Large Homes

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author on Jan 23, 2017

Energy sustainability advocates are pressing East Hampton Town to employ a new set of building standards, already in use in Southampton Town, that would require the use of highly progressive energy saving technology to constrict energy usage by large homes.

The town’s architects, members of the town’s Energy Sustainability Committee and even Southampton Town’s chief building inspector pressed the East Hampton Town Board this month to adopt the standardized Home Energy Ratings System, or HERS, as Southampton did in 2009. Doing so would set energy requirements that would demand any home over 4,500 square feet use essentially the same amount of energy as a home a fraction of its size.

“Even if you’re building a bigger house, it’s still a single-family house, so you should only be using the energy equivalence of a more traditional single-family house,” said East Hampton Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski, who drafted Southampton Town’s HERS legislation while an assistant town attorney there and would now have to write East Hampton’s should the town move forward. “The easiest way to do that is solar, but they could also do very tight insulation or highly efficient heating and cooling.”

Adopting the efficiency standards, which would have to be approved and monitored by state inspectors tasked with specifically testing a home’s energy efficiency, would constrain the mushrooming energy drain of the South Fork, advocates said, as the region enters what LIPA expects to be a decade of energy supply deficits.

Michael Benincasa, the chief building inspector for Southampton Town, told East Hampton lawmakers that adopting the HERS ratings in Southampton Town has meant that essentially all large new houses are forced to employ major energy-saving features, like advanced insulation, geothermal heating and cooling systems, and, most commonly, solar panels.

“It virtually ensures that homes 4,500 square feet or larger are going to have [solar panels], which helps with your East End electric problem,” Mr. Benincasa said. “I think they are by far the greatest thing since sliced bread. I have them on two houses … in both cases, they create more electricity than we consume.”

East Hampton Town set a goal in 2014 of being 100-percent reliant on renewable energy by the year 2030, and expanding the use of solar panels on single-family homes is seen as a key to meeting the goal. Last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a proposal to make installing solar on homes less expensive and less complicated.

Key to meeting the HERS ratings is preventing the waste of energy in heating and cooling a home. “About 40 percent of the energy used by a house is for heating and cooling, and 30 percent of that is wasted just in leakage,” said Don Matheson, a builder member of the town’s Energy Sustainability Committee. “It’s not necessary to use those fossil fuels if the house is made tight enough. This is the real meat and potatoes of taking a major step forward.”

The HERS standards would also be a step toward homogenizing building codes that currently vary widely from municipality to municipality on the South Fork, architects said. “On the South Fork alone, we work with almost a dozen different sets of regulations,” architect Bill Chaleff said. “This handicaps the region in terms of its ability to move ahead. There needs to be coordination.”

Mr. Chaleff said he envisions a future where building standards across the entire East End is overseen and tailored by a single regional council to make tailoring of codes and compliance with them easier, while pushing the region toward progressive energy use goals.

“We consider this a first step,” he said. “We hope this is the beginning of an era where … code can be shared throughout this region that shares the same climate and economic drivers. Let’s start here.”

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