Like virtually all other state governors, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue assured US Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, back in the spring of 2009 that her state was diligently working to conserve energy--in part, by upgrading to the most modern versions of national model energy codes. The assurance was required of states in order to qualify for millions of dollars in Federal stimulus funding, targeted toward energy conservation and reduction of carbon emissions (see "Codes for Cash," Coastal Connection 5/27/09). Governor Perdue's letter is posted at the Department of Energy website.
Wrote the Governor, "With respect to Section410(a)(1) of the ARRA, the North Carolina Building Code Council has assured me that the Council intends to implement ... a building energy code for residential buildings that meets or exceeds the most recently published International Energy Conservation Code."
The language leaves some wiggle room. No Governor can implement energy code changes by fiat on his or her own, and whatever the Council may have told her they intended, people can change their minds. Nevertheless, the news last month that the state Code Council had voted to postpone consideration of the 2009 IECC until 2015 at the earliest raised some eyebrows in North Carolina--especially with International Code Council meetings slated for this week in Charlotte.
"On September 14, the North Carolina Building Code Council (NCBCC) voted 8-6 to defer any action on the adoption of the state's proposed new energy code until the next code update cycle concludes in 2015," reports the Online Code Enforcement and Advocacy Network. "The product of a $500,000 competitive grant awarded by DOE in 2008, the NC amendments to the 2009 IECC are intended to achieve 30% energy savings beyond the 2006 IECC. Amendments to Chapter 11 of the 2009 IRC will also avoid compliance paths that contradict the IECC. The target effective date for the 2012 NC Building Codes was September 1, 2011 with a transition period until January 1, 2012, but has been scrapped, pending further action on the proposed codes."
The proposed amendments to the state energy code, now on hold, are posted online at the state government site. North Carolina's current energy code, based on the 2006 IECC, is available as a free PDF download on the website of the public-interest database archive.org.
Charlotte Observer columnist Jack Betts lays responsibility for the delay at the door of Charlotte architect Tom Turner. Writes Betts, "Turner told the council in writing that 'After detailed discussion the past few weeks with representatives of the Design Profession, Construction Industry and Financial Institutions, it is my opinion that the Energy Code ... be delayed.' The council, which seemed to be moving steadily toward adoption, agreed, putting the changes on hold."
Governor Perdue has reportedly been in contact with council members about the issue, and as of October 6, the council had agreed to revisit the issue, according to a report from Greenville television station WNCT. "The council will reconvene Nov. 9 to discuss the proposal, and could adopt it in December," Jack Betts reports.
December, however, is after the mid-term Congressional elections, which are likely to tip the balance of power in Washington, with repercussions that could affect energy policy as well as economic policy across the U.S. So for now, in North Carolina at least, all bets are off.
This article originally appeared in Coastal Contractor.