Builders Ask for Energy Code Changes to Be Cost-Effective
As NAHB members prepare for the International Code Council’s final hearings in Minneapolis later this month, builders are leading opposition to the so-called “30% solution,” a package of energy code changes promoted by a coalition of advocates, including window and insulation manufacturers.
“We believe in energy efficiency, and we are concerned about the effects of climate change and the consequences of our continuing reliance on fossil fuels and what that means for the country we leave our children and grandchildren,” said NAHB President Sandy Dunn.
“The country is looking for an answer, and the 30% solution advocates would like to think they have found it,” Dunn said. “Their argument is simple, catchy, and best of all, it claims to solve the problem. 'Vote for our side,' these advocates say, and the issue goes away. Too bad that it’s not true.”
“The 30% solution raises more questions than it answers,” she said. “Many of its parts have no basis in building science or practice. It’s too expensive. And because its backers include only a small part of the building industry, the solution addresses only a small part of the challenges and opportunities presented by energy-efficient homes.”
“The truth is that all of us — home buyers and home builders, environmentalists, elected officials and taxpayers — are in this together,” Dunn said. “We have at our disposal a wide variety of new technologies, knowledge, materials and skills. We won’t solve our nation’s energy efficiency problems by forcing home buyers to purchase and install only the proponents’ new products.”
No Cost-Benefit Analysis
Advocates have failed to provide any technological, performance or cost analysis in support of their proposal, saying it’s not necessary. “Cost-benefit analyses for energy-efficiency improvements provide relatively little value in evaluating proposals due to the myriad assumptions that must be made,” they wrote.
Dunn also pointed out that improving the efficiency of the building envelope — the walls, foundation and attic, doors and windows — only partially addresses the energy consumed in a home.
“Kitchen and laundry appliances account for about a third of home energy use, and they are not addressed by this proposal. Increasing the efficiency of the heating and air conditioning system or water heater reduces energy use — and that’s not fully addressed by this proposal,” she said.
“Should homes have more insulation? To answer that, we have to consider the climate before deciding how much is appropriate, which the energy codes do now. But the 30% solution would require R-20 wall insulation everywhere, no matter what the climate. In Climate Zone 4, that would cost about $3,500, and the cost savings would only be $87 a year.”
Regulating Consumer Choices and Home Costs
“It’s disingenuous and misleading to make arguments that belittle the issue of affordability or that equate consumer choice with fire and life safety issues, which is what building codes are for,” Dunn said.
New homes already are built to be considerably more energy-efficient than the homes of 20 years ago as the industry makes advances in building science — including technologically advanced heating and air-conditioning systems; new choices for siding, windows and insulation; and more efficient appliances and fixtures.
“NAHB supports code change proposals that can make homes safer, healthier and more energy-efficient when the payback for the cost of these proposals is 10 years or less. We don’t think it’s fair for home owners to pay for more,” Dunn said. “In support of that, though, we would also like to see more research and development that would bring in technologies that can meet that cost threshold and be practically available throughout the country.”
“We need balance, with breakthroughs in building science and innovative new techniques weighed carefully against their cost, efficacy, availability and ease of implementation. The so-called 30% solution is no solution at all,” she said.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.
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