In a recent editorial, the USGBC cited a growing number of U.S. state legislators who are “aiming to roll back building energy code standards and/or preempt local governments from advancing energy-efficient building codes.”
“This is a disheartening trend,” the article says, “because building codes are a cost-effective, high-impact strategy for reducing energy bills as well as greenhouse gas emissions.” To illustrate the point, the piece provides examples of legislation in four states that would stymie efforts to make new buildings more environmentally friendly.
In Idaho, a bill removed a clause that allowed certain local governments to maintain energy codes or energy-related requirements that are more stringent than the 2018 Idaho Energy Conservation Code. In Iowa, a bill would repeal energy conservation requirements for new construction and allow local governments to enact energy standards that are less restrictive than the state building code.
A Missouri bill would prevent local governments from enforcing portions of locally adopted ordinances with energy code provisions that go beyond 2009 IECC standards. In North Carolina, a bill proposes to significantly delay code updates.
Proponents of these measures argue that more stringent codes raise construction costs. Opponents cite the savings in utility bills that owners will realize over the life of the structure.
USGBC says it opposes these and similar legislative actions. “Codes are designed to gradually improve and increase efficiency over time, so that builders and the industry can make achievable, predictable adjustments rather than face drastic change,” the editorial states. “This requires that codes be regularly updated so that communities don’t fall far behind. In some states where localities have authority to adopt codes at least as stringent as the state codes, this can help bring the building industry along and facilitate acceptance of the next code version.”