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Sunday, May 19, 2013
Virginia is at a critical juncture in setting its new building code that would dramatically boost energy efficiency in the state. Saving energy saves money and offers a variety of benefits to our communities. Sadly, an organization is attempting to prevent this adoption that could cause Virginia to miss out on this opportunity to modernize and improve our infrastructure statewide.
The Home Builders Association of Virginia has spent a great deal of time and money to prevent the adoption of the latest energy efficiency code. It is disguising its attempt as concern for the consumer; however, when we look at the facts, they reveal that the only concern they are really protecting is their own profit margin.
This code adoption cycle was anticipated to be one of the best for residential and commercial building energy efficiency in history. The improved standards aim to reduce energy waste in new homes and office buildings, with the added benefit of lowering owners’ energy costs. The national code recommendations include upgrades that would represent a 15 percent gain in building efficiency nationwide — and could achieve as much as a 27.4 percent gain for Virginia’s residential buildings, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy. This jump would eliminate 55.6 million metric tons of CO2 by 2035, equivalent to taking 11.6 million cars off the roads.
According to the DOE, “on average, Virginia homeowners will save $5,836 over 30 years with the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). After accounting for upfront costs and additional costs financed in the mortgage, homeowners should see net positive cash flows, meaning saving more money than was spent to achieve savings, in the first year with the 2012 IECC. Average annual energy savings are $388 for the 2012 IECC.”
Maryland has adopted the 2012 IECC, and the District of Columbia is moving toward adoption this year. Virginia homes and businesses lacking in energy efficiency put owners and occupants at a disadvantage by increasing energy costs throughout the life of the building. Energy-efficient homes are also proven to reduce the rate of foreclosure.
Those supporting Virginia’s adoption of the 2012 IECC include: Roanoke and Richmond, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, product and equipment manufacturers, and several trade associations as well as some progressive contractors. They cite substantial benefits:
n Stabilize homeowner energy costs while improving homeowner comfort.
n Delay the need to build more expensive power plants.
n Lessen U.S. and Virginia’s reliance on energy imports.
n Benefit future generations with long-lasting energy and cost-saving improvements.
However, at a meeting in March, the Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development Codes and Standards Committee approved a series of proposals submitted by the Home Builders Association that would significantly weaken the 2012 IECC efficiency improvements. They included measures that would reduce the 2012 IECC requirements for wall insulation, ceiling insulation, window efficiency and mandatory duct and building tightness testing, among other critical cost-saving measures.
These changes were approved despite the overwhelming support of public opinion and unmistakable benefits for the state, revealing the real agenda: appeasing the lobby of the building industry. Once again, politics is getting in the way of doing what is best for Virginia residents and consumers.
On Monday, the board will convene at the Virginia Housing Center in Glen Allen, where it will decide the state’s new building standards. These standards, formally called the Uniform Statewide Building Code, set the minimum requirements for all new buildings constructed in Virginia.
Monday is the last scheduled board meeting for the 2012 code change cycle, before the new proposed regulations are published in the Virginia Register and go to the attorney general, secretary of commerce and trade, governor and the code commission for regulatory approval.
Members of the Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development and political leaders should rethink their willingness to weaken these standards, and instead support increasing the efficiency of new buildings as recommended by the national model code.
Virginia residents and consumer advocates can lend their support for the state’s adoption of the full 2012 IECC by contacting the board and their elected officials.
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