Frequently Asked Questions

Who we are

Clean Heat for Arlington MA is a group of volunteer Arlington residents who felt that their skills would be useful in helping their town move forward to a sustainable future.

Why do we need a Net Zero Stretch Code?

Climate change due to carbon dioxide and other powerful greenhouse gas emissions is happening now and worsening rapidly. The IPCC has made it clear that to avoid catastrophic outcomes we must reach net zero emissions by 2050, and, in response, both the state and the Town of Arlington have committed to this goal. Despite these commitments, we continue to build fossil-fuel reliant buildings that we know will need to be retrofitted well before the end of their useful lifespan, in order to reach net zero emissions in time to make a difference to our climate change future. A strong Net Zero Stretch Code would allow the Town of Arlington to take necessary action towards meeting our, and the state’s net zero goals.

Why does a Net Zero Stretch Code need to address fossil fuels in buildings?

What About Cooking with Gas?

What does a strong Net Zero Stretch Code look like?

A strong Net Zero Stretch Code would:

  • Apply to all building types
  • Apply to new construction and major renovations
  • Set high energy efficiency standards consistent with leading benchmarks such as Passive House to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, operational expenses, and grid load
  • Require primary heating/cooling systems, appliances, and other systems to be 100% electric
  • Require buildings to be powered by 100% renewable energy, so that building operations are carbon neutral
  • Address embodied carbon
  • Require reporting and other measures to ensure that building systems operate as designed
  • Define exemptions narrowly and subject them to review as technology changes and provide waivers, if any, only in limited instances with a clear process
  • Go into effect without unreasonable delays

What is the process and timeline for the new building code?

In March 2021, the legislature enacted “An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for the Massachusetts Climate Policy” which requires the DOER to develop a new municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code that includes net zero performance standards and a definition of a net-zero building. This net-zero stretch code must be designed to achieve compliance with the state’s greenhouse gas emissions limits. The agency has 18 months from the effective date of the act (which is 90 days after enactment) to develop and promulgate the net-zero stretch energy code, meaning it must be completed by December 2022.

During this 18-month period, the DOER must hold at least five public hearings in a diverse range of communities, including at least one low-income community. These five public hearings have been held, although the schedule for them was released only a few business days before they started, and minimal outreach was done, especially to environmental justice (EJ) community residents who have the most to gain from a strong Net Zero stretch code. This is because much housing in those neighborhoods is poorly constructed, maintained, and insulated; heating and cooling bills are high; and because negative effects of decades of environmental policy harm the health of all EJ residents.

What is Arlington’s role in this? 

Arlington is at the forefront of municipal climate action in the state. In 2019, by a Town meeting vote of 93% in favor, we sent a home rule petition (H.3750) to the state asking for the authority to prevent the installation of new fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction or gut renovations. The near unanimous support for this policy, along with the commitment by the Arlington Select Board in 2018 to be net zero by 2050, provides a strong mandate for action now. Furthermore, buildings are by far the largest source of emissions in the Town of Arlington, making up almost two thirds of the Town’s overall emissions.
A strong building code would provide us another avenue to begin working towards our net zero goals, and thus it is our responsibility to advocate for the building code that we need.
Arlington support for a strong Net Zero Stretch Code, began last year.

  • At a public hearing on our Home Rule Petition last July, Arlington Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine memorably said, “Let us be your test kitchen.” (at 2:08:20 of this YouTube video of the hearing).
  • Arlington’s Town Manager initiated this letter to Secretary Theoharides, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, urging a strong Net Zero Stretch Code. It was signed by 30 municipalities and sent to her in November, 2021.
  • When the Attorney General did not approve our Town Meeting vote in favor of limiting fossil fuel hook-ups to new construction and major renovations, Representative Garballey and Senator Friedman filed a Home Rule Petition, H.3750. An Act authorizing the town of Arlington to adopt and enforce local regulations restricting the use of fossil fuels in certain construction. The petition was assigned to the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) Committee. (See this video of the TUE Committee’s January 19, 2022 hearing on the 5 Home Rule Petitions.)
  • All five Home Rule Petitions were included in the new Senate climate bill issued April 7th, S.2819. An Act driving climate policy forward. (See summary here.) While this is exciting for Arlington, the bill would benefit only a few municipalities and would cover only electrification, not all of the essential features of a net zero code.
  • Does the technology for net zero construction exist?

    Yes! Modern cold-climate heat pumps, in combination with current efficiency standards for new construction, and rapidly greening Massachusetts electric grid make fossil fuel-free, net zero-ready construction not only feasible but practical and economical. For more information, look at these resources:

    Still have questions?

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