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Colorado OKs update to building codes to address climate change

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A bill approved by Colorado lawmakers will require local governments updating their building codes to adopt standards to make new buildings and homes more energy efficient and less polluting.

Buildings are the source of about 40% of the worldwide heat-trapping emissions, so reducing those emissions is considered essential to dealing with climate change. Under House Bill 22-1362, a new state board will write building codes that are as strong or stronger than the latest international energy conservation codes for buildings.

In Colorado, building codes are adopted and enforced at the local level, but are subject to statewide minimum requirements. The bill updates the requirements and also applies to major renovations and additions to buildings and homes.

In addition, the legislation also provides for grants for high-efficiency electric heating in public buildings and at a neighborhood scale.

The bill, awaiting Gov. Jared Polis’ signature, was among a suite of measures that will save Coloradans money on home heating, housing and transportation “while helping to clean up our air and protect our future,” Elise Jones, executive director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, said in a statement.

The Boulder-based organization and other conservation groups worked on the legislation.

But an industry representative questioned the bill’s benefits.

“While it’s good, it’s certainly not enough and it’s certainly not aggressive enough to be addressing where the built environment needs to go over the next five to six years,” Deb Noller, CEO of Denver-based Switch Automation, said of HB 1362.

Switch Automation was started in Australia and moved its headquarters to the U.S. in 2016. The software company, which works with commercial customers on building management and making buildings more energy efficient, relocated to Denver because of the universities, research institutions and the fact that Colorado is “one of the most liveable states across the U.S.,” Noller said.

“The most disappointing thing to me about this legislation is that it’s nowhere ambitious enough,” Noller said of  the bill. “And it runs the risk that the jobs and the skills and the economic opportunity will go to the states that do understand how much of a transition the built environment is about to undergo.”

Noller said the process of writing and implementing new building codes will take the next five or six years when immediate solutions are needed to face the “existential crisis around climate change.”

“I would love for it to start tomorrow, but it will take effect in the coming years, local jurisdiction by local jurisdiction,” said Howard Geller, senior policy adviser to the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

However, Geller, who worked on the bill, said local governments want time to incorporate the updates. Cities and counties that update their building codes starting July 1, 2023, will have to adopt the international energy-related requirements.

A board appointed by the director of the Colorado Energy Office and the head of the state Department of Local Affairs will have the job of developing state building codes by June 2025.

“It’s a big step forward on energy and carbon performance for new buildings,” Geller said.

In the meantime, Noller said Colorado could follow models used elsewhere and immediately require owners to disclose the carbon footprint of larger buildings, which provides an incentive for owners to make improvements.

A 2021 Colorado law requires the energy use and emissions of buildings 50,000 square feet and larger be logged to a public database. The data will be used to develop standards aimed at a 7% reduction in emissions across the sector by 2027 and 20% by 2030.

The first report by building owners is due at the end of 2022 for data from 2021. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will develop the standards in 2023.

While the 2021 law requires building owners to submit annual reports, Noller noted that compliance doesn’t begin until 2024 and buildings do not need to begin meeting the performance standards until 2026. The fines for violations, which range from $500 to $5,000, aren’t steep enough given the societal impacts of climate change, she added.



A bill approved by Colorado lawmakers will require local governments updating their building codes to adopt standards to make new buildings and homes more energy efficient and less polluting.

Buildings are the source of about 40% of the worldwide heat-trapping emissions, so reducing those emissions is considered essential to dealing with climate change. Under House Bill 22-1362, a new state board will write building codes that are as strong or stronger than the latest international energy conservation codes for buildings.

In Colorado, building codes are adopted and enforced at the local level, but are subject to statewide minimum requirements. The bill updates the requirements and also applies to major renovations and additions to buildings and homes.

In addition, the legislation also provides for grants for high-efficiency electric heating in public buildings and at a neighborhood scale.

The bill, awaiting Gov. Jared Polis’ signature, was among a suite of measures that will save Coloradans money on home heating, housing and transportation “while helping to clean up our air and protect our future,” Elise Jones, executive director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, said in a statement.

The Boulder-based organization and other conservation groups worked on the legislation.

But an industry representative questioned the bill’s benefits.

“While it’s good, it’s certainly not enough and it’s certainly not aggressive enough to be addressing where the built environment needs to go over the next five to six years,” Deb Noller, CEO of Denver-based Switch Automation, said of HB 1362.

Switch Automation was started in Australia and moved its headquarters to the U.S. in 2016. The software company, which works with commercial customers on building management and making buildings more energy efficient, relocated to Denver because of the universities, research institutions and the fact that Colorado is “one of the most liveable states across the U.S.,” Noller said.

“The most disappointing thing to me about this legislation is that it’s nowhere ambitious enough,” Noller said of  the bill. “And it runs the risk that the jobs and the skills and the economic opportunity will go to the states that do understand how much of a transition the built environment is about to undergo.”

Noller said the process of writing and implementing new building codes will take the next five or six years when immediate solutions are needed to face the “existential crisis around climate change.”

“I would love for it to start tomorrow, but it will take effect in the coming years, local jurisdiction by local jurisdiction,” said Howard Geller, senior policy adviser to the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

However, Geller, who worked on the bill, said local governments want time to incorporate the updates. Cities and counties that update their building codes starting July 1, 2023, will have to adopt the international energy-related requirements.

A board appointed by the director of the Colorado Energy Office and the head of the state Department of Local Affairs will have the job of developing state building codes by June 2025.

“It’s a big step forward on energy and carbon performance for new buildings,” Geller said.

In the meantime, Noller said Colorado could follow models used elsewhere and immediately require owners to disclose the carbon footprint of larger buildings, which provides an incentive for owners to make improvements.

A 2021 Colorado law requires the energy use and emissions of buildings 50,000 square feet and larger be logged to a public database. The data will be used to develop standards aimed at a 7% reduction in emissions across the sector by 2027 and 20% by 2030.

The first report by building owners is due at the end of 2022 for data from 2021. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will develop the standards in 2023.

While the 2021 law requires building owners to submit annual reports, Noller noted that compliance doesn’t begin until 2024 and buildings do not need to begin meeting the performance standards until 2026. The fines for violations, which range from $500 to $5,000, aren’t steep enough given the societal impacts of climate change, she added.

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