Ahead of the Curve on Energy Efficiency

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Thursday May 12, 2016

The City of South Burlington, a quarterfinalist in the nationwide Georgetown University Energy Prize, has taken a significant step forward in its commitment to energy efficiency. The city recently adopted changes to its Land Development Regulations, requiring that all new commercial and residential development comply with the State of Vermont’s “stretch” energy codes, which are more stringent than the currently mandated base codes. The stretch codes will continue to set a higher standard than base codes going forward, ensuring that South Burlington development stays ahead of the curve on energy efficiency and carbon emissions reduction.

The benefits of higher efficiency standards go beyond reductions in carbon emissions and the important effort to combat climate change. According to the Vermont Natural Resources Council, these higher codes will provide more comfortable, affordable living for residents by cutting their heating bills and allowing for more effective temperature management. Commercial enterprises will benefit as well, from reductions in operating expenses and improved workplaces for their employees.

South Burlington’s Energy Committee (SBEC), the driving force behind energy efficiency and sustainability efforts in the community, engaged in a multi-year research and development process with the South Burlington Planning Commission and Department of Planning and Zoning. Experts from the Vermont Department of Public Service and the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation also assisted in the process, and presented at multiple municipal panel meetings.

Chair of SBEC Keith Epstein noted, “I am proud of the energy efficiency leadership that South Burlington is demonstrating by requiring stretch energy codes to be met for all new construction. The collaborative nature in which the regulations were researched and implemented can serve as an example for municipalities around the state.”

The effort was collaborative by design. South Burlington Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner led the public engagement process, and worked to host inclusive public meetings for all stakeholders, including developers and residents. This approach allowed community members to voice their concerns and gain clarity, with the help of experts at the meetings, on the effect that the stretch energy codes would have.

By listening to the voices in the room, and taking a measured, well-researched approach, South Burlington energy leaders were able to build consensus around an important change to Land Development Regulations, according to the Vermont National Resources Council. An informed community discussion led to broad-based support for the proposed changes, and the efficiency enhancements that the changes represent. South Burlington continues to be an energy efficiency leader in the state of Vermont and beyond, serving as a model for responsible and forward-thinking municipal energy planning.