Group Fights Impulsive Removal of Efficient Building Codes & Wins

Sept. 16, 2014
New, efficient building codes were under fire in NC, but builders, architects and an efficiency group found ways to compromise so that the state will benefit from a code that’s about 15% more efficient.

An impulsive rollback of efficient building codes in North Carolina didn’t stick for long–thanks to the efforts of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Commission and others.

In 2012, North Carolina put in place building codes that called for homes to be about 15% more efficient, said Betsy McCorkle, director of government affairs, NCSEA.

But in 2013, a legislator impulsively decided to roll back the codes–after a warehouse owner in his district complained that the codes would cost him an additional $100,000 in lighting products. His bill was called HB 201.

NCSEA got ahold of the anti-efficiency bill’s sponsor, and, along with other groups, talked to him about ways to compromise.

Joining NCSEA were architects, the building association, environmentally friendly building products companies, and others.

“We talked to the bill’s sponsor about whether the residential part of the bill should be included in what he was trying to do,” explained McCorkle. NCSEA worked with the Home Builders Association in this effort. “With the energy conservation code in North Carolina, there’s a residential code that applies to homes and a business code that applies to warehouses, churches, and other businesses. In his bill he was rolling back both.”

NCSEA and the Home Builders Association suggested that the bill’s sponsor take the residential portion of the bill off the table, and he did.

Meanwhile, a big group of efficiency proponents took action.

“HB 201, as amended and approved by the NC House of Representatives, proposes to fix something that is not broken, especially given actions recently taken by the NC Building Code Council,” wrote builders, architects and building products companies in a letter. “If approved in its current form, it would have serious detrimental impacts on our state’s energy, peak power and water demands – and take NC out of compliance with US Dept. of Energy requirements, which would jeopardize future grant funding.”

What’s more, it would hurt the state’s efforts to attract business and jobs to the state and hurt certain construction and materials manufacturing companies already in business, the letter said.

“We worked with those legislators and others to narrow the bill further.. not to repeal the code but give flexibility to commercial buildings looking to renovate or expand,” said McCorkle.

Under the compromise, the commercial developers have the option of using the 2009 code or 2012 code.

That was a win for energy efficiency, said McCorkle.

The moral of the story: Keep an eye out for impulsive, knee-jerk reactions to energy efficiency policy–and fight them! Got any similar stories? Share them with us in the comment section below.

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

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