Massachusetts Bill Would Require Performance Labels on Homes for Sale

April 11th, 2019 by Brigid O'Leary

If Massachusetts Senate Bill 1983 (S.1983) becomes law, there will be more than just kids coming home with report cards in that state; anyone selling a residential dwelling soon may be required to provide a complete energy assessment of their home when offering it for sale. Among most single-family residential dwellings, multi-family dwellings with fewer than five units, and condominium units, the bill calls for “complete energy assessment and an associated residential energy performance label, as approved by the department of energy resources.”

Currently an idea on paper that’s making its way through state legislature, the bill defines energy assessments and residential energy performance labels as a consistent means for rating or scoring the performance of residential dwellings. As part of building envelopes, windows, the bill declares, are one aspect of the “information regarding annual energy consumption, energy costs for electricity and thermal needs” that legislation suggests need to be considered in ratings.

Among three pages of legislative language, there’s little information about just how elements making up a building envelope would factor into such ratings, but considering that energy assessments will be used to “formulate a rating or score that will be incorporated into the residential energy performance label,” and that the bill itself is taking aim at residential energy efficiency, it’s likely that the idea is to encourage consideration of more energy-efficient components. It stands to be seen how such legislation would impact sales, but it goes without saying that—if effective—any scoring of existing doors and windows will almost certainly increase awareness for more energy-efficient options.

The bill puts the onus of “designing the energy assessment and residential energy performance label” on the state’s Department of Energy Resources, but it also requires that the creation of such assessments and labels be “an open stakeholder process” with no fewer than three meetings that are open to the public. The whole process will begin, the bill declares, no later than 30 days after signing such measures into law.

Introduced in January, S.1983 was referred to the Joint Committee of Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy almost immediately, where it remains today; however, legislators who drafted the bill built in time for it to make its way through the legislative process. If passed, the entire subsequent process—including stakeholder input and open meetings, through the creation and adoption of energy assessment and residential energy performance labels—will be completed by December 15, 2020. From that point onward, residents, and anyone who works in residential construction or related sales (in the state of Massachusetts), has six and a half months to ensure those assessments are being done and that labels are provided. The bill expects such measures to be in place and running by the end of June 2021—or within nine months after which it’s signed into law, whichever date provides more time for compliance.

To those living and/or working in Massachusetts, if any of the measures proposed in S.1983 summon de ja vu, it’s likely due to the fact that Governor Charles Baker proposed similar legislation last year, in the form of H.4371, proposing the same concepts.

The bill does provide exceptions to the requirements of assessments and labels, including dwellings on the National or Massachusetts Registers of Historic Places, listed as historic buildings and landmarks, and any residential dwellings that have had assessments through the Mass Save program within the previous three years.

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  1. Dear Brigid.

    Nice article on the residential assessment/rating system bill that is meandering through the Massachusetts legislature. As you suggest, there are many elements that require development before a complete version is ready for review/comment. The debate will be vigorous; lobbyists, special interests and residents will be busy…making a final draft hard to predict.

    As you may know, residential rating systems are common (often mandatory) throughout Europe. Construction techniques are tightly controlled; code enforcement is real and expected. It will be interesting to see if this Bay State initiative can become law…or, even make it out of the Joint Committee before opposing forces raise objections.

    Please keep us updated.

    Cheers,
    Bruce

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