Designing homes and communities to be resilient in the face of natural disaster is becoming increasingly important. President Obama emphasized this last week with the announcement of a variety of public and private efforts to increase the resilience of communities against the impacts of climate change through building codes and standards.
Preparing for greater risk of natural disasters due to climate change is absolutely critical, but in this blog, Lauren Urbanek of the Natural Resources Defense Council posits that it would be even better if we could halt climate change in its tracks. She says the good news is that one building code in particular provides an important tool to fight climate change, not just respond to its effects: the building energy code. Unfortunately, the model building energy code is under attack and is at risk of being substantially weakened, at a time when its stringency has never been more important, she says.
If recent proposals ultimately make it through the rest of the code development process, the 2018 IECC will be the first code to ever move backward on energy efficiency. Builders argued that requiring more energy efficiency will increase the purchase price of the home. While that's true in some cases (and is something that NRDC and other energy efficiency advocates are very sensitive to), the advisory committee's decisions simply didn't take into account the fact that the cost of a home isn't just about the purchase price. Home energy bills are estimated to cost the average family around $2,000 each year—that's more than $70,000 in energy costs over a 30 year period. Energy efficiency measures are easiest and cheapest to install at the time of construction and ensure that homes are more comfortable, more resilient, and don't waste energy and money. Efficiency pays for itself! The results of the advisory committee hearings could mean that the 2018 energy code would be a very bad deal for homeowners and families.