Building codes are another important change, according to Majersik. “The fact is that building energy codes have been getting better, stronger, and requiring more energy efficiency,” he says.
And although some builders view codes as a necessary evil, Majersik says the industry needs to understand the environmental benefits of compliance, not to mention the opportunity to differentiate their homes from foreclosed properties. According to IMT, economic analysis indicates that every dollar spent on energy code compliance and enforcement initiatives yields $6 in energy savings. Additional code compliance and enforcement spending could also avoid 9.57 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2020.
There are further benefits as well. “It is a boon to homeowners who get lower utility bills, and it is a boon for national security, where we don’t have to import as much energy from other parts of the world,” Majersik says. He also believes that strong codes could create tens of thousands of clean energy jobs.
A recent survey by the publisher of Consumer Reports found that by a wide margin, U.S. consumers like building energy codes and believe that homeowners should have a right to a home that meets national energy standards. Respondents also felt that energy codes should be enforced like other safety and quality standards of construction.
The problem is that most U.S. building energy code compliance initiatives—i.e., training, outreach, implementation, and enforcement—have been severely underfunded. And while every state has committed to achieving 90% energy code compliance under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), there is abundant evidence that compliance rates in most jurisdictions are far below 90%—a problem IMT estimates will take new thinking, considerable political will, and $810 million per year nationally to fix.
In an effort to find a cost-effective compliance solution, IMT recently completed the first three case studies in a series investigating code compliance strategies. One strategy, for example, is utilizing third-party plan reviewers. IMT believes this compliance model will benefit the builder or the developer by providing an expedited plan review process, as well as the local jurisdiction by realizing tax revenue from the completed project sooner than under the traditional model. To download all three case studies, visit http://www.imt.org/codecompliance.html.