What is a Building Energy Code?

A building energy code is a regulatory tool that establishes energy efficiency standards related to building construction and design. Building energy codes supplement or replace existing building codes and apply to new construction and larger renovations. Building energy codes apply to both residential and commercial buildings. Typically, building energy codes focus on improved energy efficiency through building and design standards related to building materials, lighting, heating, insulation, and ventilation.

Why adopt a Building Energy Code?

New York State’s Climate Leadership Community Protection Act (CLCPA) mandates an 85% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels, including a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission for residential uses by 2030. The act also codifies the “New Efficiency: New York” target of 185 trillion British thermal units (btu) of on-site energy savings by 2025. This strategy will reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions associated with one-to-four family homes, contributing to the State’s energy efficiency and emission goals. One necessary approach to meeting this mandate is to implement improvements in local building codes to require more energy efficient buildings and to begin to implement energy improvements on existing buildings with a focus on low- and moderate-income families.

New York State has provided an update to its voluntary addition its building code known as the NYStretch-2020 which can adopted by local jurisdictions to further increase energy and GHG emissions associated with new development projects. Communities can also adopt additional standards that can aim toward zero-emission electric buildings—where all equipment such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC) and water heaters are powered by clean renewable electricity.


NYStretch-2020 is a model building energy code developed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). NYStretch-2020 supplements the required building standards set forth in the 2020 Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York State (ECCCNYS), commonly referred to as the Energy Code. NYStretch-2020 establishes more rigorous energy efficiency standards than the State Energy Code for both residential and commercial buildings. NYStretch amends the 2020 ECCCNYS with a standard that is 10–12% more efficient, depending on climate zone and building type. Many of the changes are already being considered for the next national energy codes.

Given the complex nature of building codes, municipalities that wish to adopt a local building energy code are encouraged to utilize NYStretch-2020. The benefits of implementing NYStretch-2020 include:

  • The building standards in the code are the result of research and review from industry professionals and stakeholders.
  • NYStretch is designed for streamlined adoption by municipalities.
  • There are state resources and technical assistance available to assist municipalities in adopting the code.
  • Adopting NYStretch is a high-value action within the New York State Climate Smart Communities program.
  • Adopting the NYStretch code and receiving code enforcement training can also enable municipalities to access grant funding within the Clean Energy Communities program.

How to adopt a building energy code?

Adopting a building energy code starts with understanding the existing building codes. In many cases, building standards are primarily dictated by the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (the Uniform Code) and the State Energy Conservation Construction Code (the Energy Code). These codes apply to all municipalities statewide. However, municipalities may also have additional provisions in their local code. Understanding what requirements are currently in place is a critical first step for ensuring that changes do not result in conflicting standards.

To adopt a building energy code, municipalities must pass a law or ordinance that formally codifies the changes. Municipalities that wish to adopt NYStretch-2020 will need to pass a local law or ordinance that establishes the following basic concepts:

  1. The Local Energy Code in the municipality will be the State Energy Code as modified by NYStretch.
  2. Commercial buildings must comply with the commercial provisions of the State Energy code as modified by NYStretch.
  3. Residential buildings must comply with the Residential Provisions of the State Energy Code as modified by NYStretch.

Upon adoption of a new building energy code, whether it be NYStrecth or another more stringent code, municipalities are required to file a copy of the code with the Code Council by submitting it through the Department of State’s Division of Building Standards and Codes (DBSC).

HSCI Minimum Criteria for a Building Energy Code:

  • Adoption of NYStretch-2020 with no modifications

– OR –

  • Adoption of NYStretch-2020 with modifications. A description of the modifications and the reasons for them.

– OR –

  • Adoption of a building energy code (reach code) that substantially improves energy efficiency standards above and beyond the minimum requirements of the State Energy Code.

Supporting Resources:

Filing to the State Fire Prevention & Building Code Council of More Stringent Local Energy Conservation Construction Code: A form required to be submitted to the state when a local building energy code is adopted that is more stringent than the state Energy Code.

NYStretch Energy Code Resources: A NYStretch resources that detail the process of adopting NYStretch at the municipal level.

Getting to Zero:  Resource that examines the various code options that go beyond the Stretch Code