By clinging to outdated building codes, the Utah Legislature is caving in to one powerful lobby while ignoring the needs of Utah families who buy new homes and then find they are energy hogs that cost more in utility bills than the owners can pay.
Failing to adopt 2009 energy standards already 3 years old! is an inexcusable dereliction of our legislators' duty to act for their constituents. The Utah Homebuilders Association is the only group opposing this move to 21st century energy standards, while polls show that, overwhelmingly, Utahns want and are willing to pay for more energy-efficient homes.
There is no good reason why Utah should be behind the times in adopting the new normal in energy-efficient home building practices. Thirty other states have adopted the 2009 code, and Utah has updated eight other construction standards, including the energy code for commercial buildings.
Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley City, is proposing in HB262 that the state adopt the 2009 International Building Code. The now uses 2006 standards, and Cox, an architect, says they lack important safety and energy upgrades. But the bill was held up by a House committee of 12 members, seven of whom have ties to real estate or construction, and likely won't see the light of day.
At issue is a handful of updates that set minimal energy efficiency standards for insulation, lighting fixtures, windows and, perhaps most important, standards by which heating and cooling systems are not only to be installed, but tested for efficiency.
A homeowner can invest in state-of-the-art heating and cooling equipment, but if the ducts that deliver the warm and cool air are not installed properly, it will all be a waste of money and energy. Cox also told committee members that a leak in a home's crawl space could create a downdraft that becomes a carbon monoxide hazard.
Last year the Uniform Building Code Commission recommended acceptance of the 2009 code, but it must be ratified by the Legislature.
While the home builders' lobbyist keeps throwing out a $5,000-per-home cost to meet the 2009 code, most estimates are less than $1,000, and builders can receive at least $450 in incentives. Passed on to the home buyer, the added cost would be made up through $200 to $300 annual savings, and reduced energy use for the life of the home would be substantial. Besides, more efficient buildings mean a cleaner environment for everyone.
Utah should have made the change years ago. Further delay cannot be justified.