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Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News

Homeowner critics say building codes bill too slow to help air quality

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue  |  Posted Jul 5th, 2015 @ 10:45am


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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker's resurrection of a bill to delay adoption of the latest residential building codes fired up activists and others on Wednesday, with multiple groups asserting it will hurt homeowners' wallets and dirty the air.

"Waiting at least six years to update our codes means Utahns will not have the energy efficient homes we need to help clean up our air and save money," said Ingrid Griffee, executive director of Utah Moms for Clean Air, in a prepared statement.

"We challenge the Legislature to demonstrate its commitment to clean air, to the health of our families, and to ensuring the public has the option to make better clean air choices when we buy homes."

Griffee's grassroots organization was joined by HEAL Utah, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker in a press conference Wednesday at the Utah State Capitol, where they called attention to a legislative committee's recent passage of the bill.

The measure that delays the state's adoption cycle of the latest building codes from three years to six years was a controversial bill introduced in the 2015 session, but it failed to pass.

Assistant Majority Whip Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, issued a statement on Wednesday and said groups are misunderstanding the bill's provisions.

His bill, he said, requires the Uniform Building Commission to make a study of energy codes every year with a cost-benefit analysis it must perform and make available to the Utah Legislature.

“Unfortunately, there has been a fundamental misunderstanding of what HB285 does. This bill allows us to look at what makes sense for Utah consumers in terms of safety, energy saving, and environmental impacts not just every three years, but annually," Wilson said.

But critics fear that the resurfacing of the bill indicates it is being fast-tracked for probable adoption in a special session that may be called in the coming months to deal with Medicaid-related issues.


We challenge the Legislature to demonstrate its commitment to clean air, to the health of our families, and to ensuring the public has the option to make better clean air choices when we buy homes.

–Ingrid Griffee, Utah Moms for Clean Air


Wilson's bill was heard and approved June 17 in the Legislature's Business and Labor Interim Committee, even as the Utah's Uniform Building Commission is reviewing the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code.

The commission will then make a recommendation to the Utah Legislature about how much of that code — or if any — should be adopted and then passed on to the residential and commercial construction industry. At the very least, advocates say, lawmakers should hold off until the commission gets a chance to make a thorough review.

Kevin Emerson, senior policy associate with Utah Clean Energy, stressed that adoption of the latest energy-savings code is a boon for prospective home buyers, who would realize savings of nearly $300 a year in reduced energy costs.

“The updated 2015 energy code brings rapid financial returns and long-term air quality benefits to Utah families and businesses," he said.

"Utah’s energy code is already significantly outdated, and this bill would basically guarantee that it stays out-of-date for years, leaving Utah homeowners on the hook for higher energy bills and poor air quality."

Emerson said the latest energy code requirements would:

• Increase attic insulation

• Improve window efficiency values

• Require 75 percent high-efficiency lighting

Advocates say if the 2015 requirements are shelved, it would likely result in an estimated 60,000 homes being built without the latest improvements in energy savings between now and 2022, which is when the next round of energy codes would be up for adoption under a delayed cycle.

Wilson, who is president and chief executive officer of Destination Homes, told his colleagues last session that the lengthy residential building codes represent "constant change" for the industry and are expensive to incorporate in new construction.

"The end result is that we are seeing an increased cost to the consumer with very little benefit," he said.

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