Columbia City Council passes energy efficiency construction requirements

Monday, September 16, 2013 | 11:39 p.m. CDT; updated 7:50 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 17, 2013

COLUMBIA — New homes constructed on permits received on or after Oct. 1 will have to meet energy efficiency requirements passed Monday night by the Columbia City Council.

"We have to create energy efficiency where it is most inexpensive and where residents have the largest payback," Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said.

In the run-up to the vote, the Building Construction Codes Commission and the Energy and Environment Commission presented arguments for and against the regulations. They disagreed over the cost of implementing the provisions, which would mandate increased insulation for walls, tests for air leakage and lighting efficiency.

The Building Construction Codes Commission disagreed with the requirements, recommending that the council adopt its proposal for minimal requirements. The Energy and Environment Commission, on the other hand, recommended adopting the International Codes Council's recommendations in full. 

The requirements were developed by the International Codes Council, an association that drafts building safeguards used by city governments throughout the United States and federal agencies like the Department of Defense.

Mayor Bob McDavid cast one of the two votes against the regulations.

"We have a commission that's spent a year and come up with recommendations," he said, referring to the Building Construction Codes Commission. "We have a right to disagree with any commission, but this is nullification of their work."

Twenty Columbia residents, including representatives of environmental groups and the two city commissions, spoke before the council before it passed the requirements. Some of them accused others of faulty data to support their positions.

The supporters and opponents of the requirements disagreed on whether the costs were worth the investment. Opponents of the requirements said the costs would be passed onto to the consumer and would disproportionately affect lower-income homeowners. 

In passing the codes in full, the council chose not to adopt a secondary option in which it would accept the Building Construction Codes Commission's changes to the code but implement the code in full where it regards increased insulation requirements, which the energy commission said provided the bulk of savings in energy bills. 

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Mark Foecking September 17, 2013 | 5:18 a.m.

Insulation, particularly in new construction, pays for itself very quickly. However, the problem has never been new construction (which tends to be more energy efficient anyway). There are a lot of older houses that are poorly insulated and sealed, and that's the main problem as far as wasting energy.


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