Tag Archives: International Code Council

Big Voting Victory for Clean Energy…in Charlotte Building Codes Meeting

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.

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Excitement in Charlotte? Building Code Nerds to determine next energy codes next week

Rife with knowledge of Solar Heat Gain Coefficients and R-values, hundreds of municipal government officials from around the country will descend on Charlotte, North Carolina for the International Codes Council starting this week-end. Front and center on their agenda will be a vote to determine which of multiple different versions of the International Energy and Conservation Code they will adopt for 2012. Sierra Club’s Rebuilding America Through Codes campaign will be at the conference in full green regalia, supporting what is called the 30% solution as part of the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition. That solution would require new buildings built to the 2012 code to be 30% more efficient than the 2006 version and about 17% more efficient than the 2009 version.

Locally, here in Texas, Sierra Club has been working with our friends at Environment Texas and ICLEI to encourage local eligible officials to attend and to support the 30% solution, or if they can’t, at least support a slightly less rigorous alternative developed in concert with the Department of Energy. The Homebuilders are pushing a much less aggressive 2012 version of their own. Houston, Denton, Garland,  El Paso, Austin and San Antonio, among others, will all be sending representatives and we hope to see them vote right.

Only last month, El Paso became the latest city in Texas to adopt the 2009 IECC, while also passing a greenbuilding resolution to begin working on local amendments to improve the code next year. Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston are already state leaders on energy efficient building codes and we hope all of these cities will support the more aggressive codes. Corpus and Bryan have announced they will adopt the 2009 code early next year.

With the dangers of air pollution, climate change and natural resource degradation from fossil fuels well documented, clean energy solutions like building energy codes will be key to getting us to transition away from dirty energy solutions. You can follow the action live starting Wednesday on twitter.

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We’re No. 32 in Energy Efficiency Programs! Sierra Club, Public Citizen and Environment Texas Cry Foul

Texas Stumbles Further on Energy Efficiency Rankings
AUSTIN – A new report released today by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks Texas 32nd in the nation for programs to promote energy efficiency, a drop from last year’s ranking of 23 and the previous year’s ranking of 19.  A coalition of clean energy groups seized on the findings to call on the state of Texas to boost energy codes in buildings and establish an Energy Efficiency Office.

“Energy efficiency lowers the wholesale price of electricity and gas, which acts as a tax cut for Texas residents and businesses,” said Joyce Yao, Clean Energy Associate of Environment Texas. “While other states have made the necessarily investments in energy efficiency to help their residents save money, Texas continues to lag behind, forcing Texans to pay too much on energy bills. We need to create an independent state agency for energy efficiency to benefit consumers, save the state a substantial amount of money and streamline state processes.”

The coalition of clean energy groups also called on code officials across the state to support the Thirty Percent Solution at the International Code Council’s Final Action Hearings at the end of the month. This would increase energy codes by 30% over the 2006 IECC, and is part of a two-step process to achieve a 50% increase in energy efficiency by 2018, yielding a 20% reduction in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions from our nation’s buildings by 2020.

While Texas was an early leader in energy efficiency investments, other states have dramatically increased their energy savings programs, leading to Texas’ decline in the overall state rankings. In a December 2008 report, the Public Utility Commission of Texas found vast potential for energy efficiency in the state which, if tapped, could save Texans as much $11.9 billion on their electric bills.

One explanation for why Texas lags on energy efficiency on the national level is the failure to have any statewide program to reduce natural gas use. Furthermore, due to inadequate tracking and coordination by the state, some efficiency efforts – such as municipal efficiency programs – are not being credited, which may have factored into Texas’s staggering drop in the ACEEE’s scorecard.  This further highlights the need for an independent Energy Efficiency Coordinating Council that can comprehensively track the state’s progress on energy efficiency measures.

“The Sunset Review of our main environmental, housing, water and energy agencies in Texas and the upcoming legislative session provide the perfect opportunity to see how our existing programs can be enhanced on energy efficiency, but also how we can at the same time save our businesses and residents money on gas and water bills,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We need coordinated electric, gas and water conservation programs in Texas so we can save money, reduce pollution and create jobs for Texans.”

“This report indicates a dire need for reform of the way our state leaders treat the most consumer-friendly energy resource,” said Matthew Johnson, Energy Efficiency Research Associate at Public Citizen. “The silver lining to this sobering wake-up call is the coming legislative session. Legislators have an opportunity to bring the uncoordinated state agencies in line so Texans get a chance to learn and participate in the broad array of energy efficiency opportunities.”

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Energy Codes: El Paso Does It! Corpus Next?

On September 21st, the El Paso City Council approved new building codes, including the 2009 IECC energy code, designed to make new homes, commercial buildings and businesses more energy efficient. The measure — required by a new state ruling supported by Sierra Club from the State Energy Conservation Office –earlier this year, will mean El Paso becomes the latest city to adopt the latest version of the IECC codes, joining San Antonio, Waco, College Station, Austin, and Beaumont among others. The new codes are some 10 to 15 percent more energy efficient than existing state codes. While Dallas and Houston rely on the 2006 IECC codes, they have local amendments that already meet the 2009 IECC standards, though Houston will be proposing some additional amendments soon. At the El Paso meeting, both the AIA — the Architects — and the local Homebuilders supported the adoption of the 2009 codes, only a few months after the Homebuilders had vociferously opposed it after which Sierra Club and the City sponsored a forum to reassure folks it wouldn’t break the bank. In other local news, District 2 Councilmember Susie Byrd is working on a local resolution supported by the Sierra Club, many local businesses and the American Institute of Architects local chapter to create a greenbuilding task force to look at other measures to increase energy efficiency in local buildings. Look for a public meeting on the resolution October 5th.

Meanwhile, the Builders Association of Corpus Christ and their local greenbuilding effort, Coastal Bend Green Built, is teaming up with the City and utility AEP to begin discussing the mandatory adoption of the 2009 IECC code in the coming months. Corpus already has a robust greenbuilding program, but how the new codes would impact their energy star homes has some builders concerned. Sierra Club will be working with our friends in the building industry and the City to suggest local amendments that can help Corpus save money, save energy and produce local jobs! Look for news here on an upcoming public forum on the issue.

Bryan has also announced they will be holding meetings on the 2009 IECC codes in the coming weeks as cities throughout Texas get more efficient. Never knew building codes could be so exciting.

Finally, a bunch of cities will be sending folks to the International Code Council meeting next month in North Carolina, where the 2012 codes will be discussed. Sierra Club is part of a coalition supporting the 30% solution to make energy codes even more efficient.

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