Ads by NC Warn say NC Building Code Council cut back on new home standards that would produce long-term savings for buyers
By Ned Barnett
A North Carolina clean energy group has taken out full-page ads in North Carolina newspapers charging that the NC Building Code Council is cutting back on new energy efficiency standards due to pressure from home builders and utilities.
In an ad appearing Wednesday in about a half dozen daily newspapers, the group NC Warn says the council has made “an eleventh-hour surrender to the Home Builders Association and power companies” by cutting back a planned 30 percent upgrade in energy efficiency requirements for new homes.
The ads urge citizens to call Gov. Perdue and “urge her to replace council members who cater to the HBA with those who represent the public interest.”
NC WARN director Jim Warren said the ads would cost his group more than $20,000.
“The best interests of North Carolina again are threatened by Big Business’s control over various facets of state government,” Warren said in a press release. “With prospects for long-term economic distress – and damage already being caused by accelerating climate change – the 30 percent efficiency upgrade is the right thing at the right time for this state.”
Dan Tingen, chairman of the NC Building Code Council, said that his panel has chosen to phase-in the upgrade due to the poor economy. He expects the council to approve a 15 percent upgrade at its next meeting on Dec. 14. He said the additional 15 percent would be added in 2015.
Tingen said requiring that new homes be 15 percent more energy efficient will add up to $2,500 to the cost of new home construction. Given the slump in new home sales and the sluggish economy, he said it was not realistic to drive costs any higher now. He said he has felt no pressure from the HBA or utilities to reduce the upgrade.
“To get the whole 30 percent at one time ignores where we are,” Tingen said. “It’s not that we’re giving up and doing nothing. Fifteen percent, I think, is a lot.”
Warren said the cutback to 15 percent came suddenly at the end of a year-long process. He suspects its reflects political pressure from home builders who would have pay for the improvements or utilities that would see a drop in energy use.
The 30 percent standard, Warren said in an interview, “was a done deal. Everybody thought it was going to happen. It was sailing through until the 11th hour when the HBA or whoever else stuck their foot in the door.”
Mark Marcoplos, a green builder and NC WARN board member, said in the group’s press release that home buyers want new homes that will save them money on energy costs. But, he said, members of the Home Builders Association “seem clueless about the market moving toward low-cost, common sense energy improvements as the building standard.”
Tingen said the problem is that most home buyers are not educated about the long-term savings that can be realized by paying more for an energy efficient home. As a result, he said, home builders often have to absorb the cost of adding efficiency.
“What I would prefer is to have some consumers say, ‘I want the most energy-efficient house you can build,’” Tingen said. “Instead, buyers want the cheapest house they can get.”
Tingen supports higher requirements for energy efficiency in new homes, but he said the changes demanded by the NC Warn ads are ahead of what the market will bear.
“It’s not quite as simple as its being portrayed,” he said, adding that proponents of energy efficiency behind the ads should spend “the same effort educating homeowners.”