Stricter Building Codes and Green Building
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by Matt Kiszka on 06/24/2009
Higher levels of efficiency could be mandated by the federal government, leading to greener codes
Last month, the United States House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, by a 33-25 margin. The bill, in its own words, aims "to create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy."
It significantly alters the way energy efficiency policy would be mandated in new U.S. buildings, and sets precedent for federal enforcement in state and local entities that do not comply. The levels of efficiency set forth by the bill are ambitious, and lay down a new national building energy code - one that initially requires new buildings to perform at 30% below the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)/ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004, and then 50% below the baseline in 5 years time. Federal enforcement will ensure that state and local governments meet a 90% compliance level with the provisions for building energy efficiency, should the bill be legislated.
In addition to energy efficiency mandates, the bill also targets reductions in emissions from greenhouse gases, the creation of a renewable electricity standard, the increased production of electric vehicles, and higher efficiency in home appliance and electricity generation.
Leaving the markets to their own devices doesn't always work - and as we are seeing in our current economy, a laissez faire approach to policy can in fact be disasterous. The Waxman-Markey bill, with all its ambitions - and despite its potential problems - pushes federal policy in a much more progressive direction and ensures that the forces for a more efficient and clean infrastructure are set in motion. The potential savings from stricter building codes are massive, and as we've seen before, the payback period is not half as scary as it initially seems. Let's hope the bill is successful and that we start to see truly effective changes being legislated. ~Matt
Matt Kiszka is the Green Building Project Manager at Renewable Choice.