GREEN BUILDING:

Efficiency advocates call for national energy code

A new coalition of energy-efficiency advocates is pressing Congress to pass a national building code to slash energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Alliance to Save Energy, the Edison Electric Institute, Duke Energy Corp. and a dozen other organizations launched the Building Energy Efficient Codes Network in Washington, D.C., today. The coalition is urging Congress to pass legislation that would require residential and commercial buildings to be 30 percent more energy-efficient than baseline code in 2010 and 50 percent more efficient by the middle of the next decade -- with the ultimate goal of zeroing out buildings' net energy use by 2030.

"If we build a home today, we're contributing to the energy future 80 years from now, when it will still be around," said Bill Fay, the coalition's executive director. "We have a choice today how efficient that home will be."

The coalition's efficiency targets are similar to those in the climate bill the House passed last week.

H.R. 2454, sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), would require residential and commercial buildings to be 30 percent more efficient than the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code.

The efficiency target ramps up to 50 percent for residential and commercial buildings by 2014 and 2015, respectively. The efficiency target would increase 5 percent every three years through 2030.

The National Association of Home Builders criticized the Waxman-Markey bill's targets as "too far, too fast" and proposed a 30 percent increase in residential energy efficiency by 2012.

"The market is not geared up to supply the necessary materials and equipment, and that's going to drive up costs," NAHB Chairman Joe Robson said in a statement after the bill's passage. "The result will be fewer working-class families in these new energy-efficient homes."

There is an important caveat in the legislation, however. If concensus-based codes provide for greater energy reductions than the national code does, the overall percentage reduction of energy use would become the national code's target.

Fay said his coalition supports the provision.

"We think having national targets will spur code bodies, states and municipalities to act," he added. "The federal backstop is a last resort."

The coalition's launch comes as the International Code Council begins developing a "green" construction code for commercial buildings. The code, which could be ready for adoption by states and municipalities by the end of 2011, would include benchmarks for indoor air quality and energy and water efficiency, ICC CEO Richard Weiland said in an interview yesterday (E&ENews PM, June 29).

He said the code would be compatible with the American Institute of Architects' goal of zeroing out the carbon dioxide emissions of new or remodeled buildings by 2030.

Today, buildings account for about 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, according to Energy Department data.