New Building Codes Can Save Texas Home and Business Owners $500/Year, Reduce Air Pollution
AUSTIN—Largely unnoticed in the shadow of upcoming midterm elections, the International Code Council—a body of building officials from local and state governments across the country—convened in Charlotte, North Carolina during the last week of October to make what is arguably the most significant energy policy decision of 2010. The Council meets every three years to consider updates to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the standard by which new homes and businesses are built, and this year, they voted overwhelmingly for stronger energy efficiency standards.
Over 400 delegates—including representatives from Houston, San Antonio, and other cities across Texas—voted on the new codes, which represent a major increase in the stringency of energy provisions for both homes and commercial buildings. If adopted statewide, the new code would represent at least a 30% improvement in the energy performance of buildings compared to the requirements currently in place.
“The new energy code protects new home and business owners by locking in energy savings at the beginning of the building’s life, when it is most efficient to do so,” stated Joyce Yao, Clean Energy Associate for Environment Texas. “In addition, buildings account for 40 percent of the country’s energy use and half of our global warming pollution, so improving the energy performance of Texas buildings will help move us towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”
“We are proud of the efforts of our joint partners with the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition to get our Texas cities to send representatives to this important decision-making meeting, and we are especially proud of our Texas cities, whose representatives supported moving our national building codes to be 30% more efficient than the 2006 code,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Their action will save Texans money as cities begin to move from the 2009 IECC codes to the 2012 codes over the coming years, and help reduce pollution from power plants, while creating jobs in the private sector.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the new energy codes have the potential to net Texas homeowners an average of $500 each year in reduced energy costs, even considering the incrementally higher cost of constructing a more efficient new home. The codes call for the use of “off-the-shelf” measures that are already used by builders across the country, including better insulation, more efficient windows, and sealing of leaky heating and cooling ducts.
While the national model energy codes are now 30% stronger, those energy savings are not yet guaranteed for Texas home and business owners. Each state will now consider adoption of the new codes, which could occur as soon as the beginning of next year.
“Code officials today passed measures that increase energy efficiency and will save on electricity, gas, and fuel oil bills for people across the U.S,” commented Steve Rosenstock, manager at Edison Electric Institute, a coalition that represents private utilities across the nation
Recently in Texas, the State Energy Conservation Office adopted the 2009 IECC code as the minimum code for new construction, beginning in April of 2011. Many cities like El Paso, Austin, Waco, San Antonio and Laredo have already adopted the 2009 IECC.
“Our next step is to encourage states and localities to begin to adopt the 2012 IECC so that all new homebuyers will benefit from improved efficiency,” stated Reed.
“The officials who have supported these dramatic improvements to the energy efficiency of our nation’s buildings deserve tremendous credit. They’ve given Texas an important tool to help meet our nation’s energy, environmental, and economic challenges. Adoption of these changes will save home and business owners billions of dollars and keep energy money in our local economies while avoiding the pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels,” said Yao.