Town Considering a Greener Code

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Since taking office, Southampton Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst has made the greening of the town a top priority. She spearheaded the creation of the town’s Green Committee and this Tuesday a public hearing will be held at town hall on her biggest initiative yet, the adoption of energy conservation guidelines into the town’s building code.

The hearing is on the creation of a local law seeking to mandate that new or substantially reconstructed homes comply with LIPA’s Energy Star program in addition to requirements outlined in the state’s Energy Conservation Construction Code.

“The time is now, we look around all over the world, the flooding out west, the Katrinas, and here we are,” said the councilwoman. “Everyone has to start to think about what can every city, every municipality and every country do to try and stem this development environmentally. People are now aware that this can be done without that much effort and it is inevitably repaid.”

She said while the up front of cost of constructing a home under the new law will be higher, the energy savings will cover the additional expenses.

“What everyone has to be clear on is the initial cost is without a doubt a higher one — the appliances and the insulation, are more costly. But also there’s no doubt they repay themselves over time, and rather quickly.”

Throne-Holst continued with a mention of the controversial new Long Island Power Authority transmission line stretching from Southampton Village to Bridgehampton. For months community members came out en masse to object to the line being run above ground.

“LIPA justified the need for these new lines, saying to us this is an energy guzzling area and they’re forced to put these lines in,” she said. “If that’s the case then let’s take some responsibility and avoid having these burdens placed on the community.”

“This progressive law represents an innovative strategy to ensure that these dwellings use considerably less energy than if they were built to prevailing building standards,” said town supervisor Linda Kabot.

Throne-Holst said currently Brookhaven Town and the Town of Hempstead have taken the lead on Long Island when it comes to sustainability and development. But if this new law passes, and Throne-Holst said she’s sure it will, Southampton will surpass them.

One unique aspect of the new law sets higher standards for larger homes. A dwelling of 6,500 square feet or more would have to achieve an energy rating of 95 while a smaller 3,500 square foot dwelling would only need to achieve a rating of 84.

Throne-Holst said the reasoning behind the different standards is simple.

“In terms of size, bigger homes do, by their very nature, require more energy and create more of a carbon footprint,” she said. “It seems they’re the ones that need to be held more responsible for being a bigger burden on the community.”

The energy ratings are based on the NYS adopted Home Energy Rating System (HERS). The HERS index assigns points based on energy use in the heating and cooling  of the home as well as lighting, appliances and on-site power generation. A home with a score of 85 is 15% more energy efficient than a normal home. A home analysis includes an onsite inspection, where, for example, a blower door test would test the leakiness of the house or a duct test would test the leakiness of the duct work.

Features of such homes include effective insulation to insure even temperatures, high performance windows that help keep heat in during the winter, and out during the summer, and Energy Star rated appliances.

Throne-Holst gave a lot of the credit behind the initiative to the head of the town’s building department Michael Bennicasa. She said soon after she took office the two met and came to the conclusion that a law like this was both doable and very much needed.

“Mike has to be credited,” she said. “He has done a lot of research, and come up with what we think is a very proactive and certainly cutting edge level of substantiality requirements on building in Southampton.”

Tuesday’s public hearing will take place in the town hall meeting room at 1 p.m.

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