MEBANE — It looks like North Carolina will get another chance to improve our state energy code and give buyers of new homes lower energy bills and a better reason to put North Carolina at the top of their shopping list.
The N.C. Building Code Council voted last month (8 to 6) to postpone adoption of energy code updates until 2015. It's no surprise that members of our Home Builders Association were lobbying hard to maintain the status quo despite our national leadership in green building. They fear that a tighter building code would make homes more expensive and harder to sell in an increasingly competitive market.
But anyone who ever played youth soccer knows that a wet field hurts all players equally, and a sunny day brings out the best in everyone. These changes would make new homes more competitive with existing inventory and foreclosures at little added cost to the builders and no cost to taxpayers. They are good for business.
The new code is very well-written, with cost-effective, practical improvements that will save money, improve comfort and indoor air quality and actually cost little to implement. One typical improvement is requiring that builders line crawlspaces with insulation boards to keep heat and AC inside the house. These are smart changes we can easily afford, similar to what Energy Star builders have been doing for years.
Our concern is that builders who are focused on the lowest first-cost will attempt to remove provisions calling for insulating crawlspace walls and implementing better draft-stopping and insulation in an attempt to reach a "compromise" that achieves much less energy savings. In contrast, the proposal that has been negotiated represents an optimal value for first-cost to cost-of-ownership. Payback assumptions need to consider increasing energy costs and improved comfort and resale value.
Our state deserves the version that was originally voted on and approved, without further dilution. As it happens, the Building Code Council's decision to delay the new provisions conflicts with state statute as well as our state's acceptance of $137 million in stimulus investments. So we have another chance to get it right at two meetings: 9 a.m. today and Nov. 17, both at 322 Chapanoke Road in Raleigh.
These meetings are free and open to the public. I encourage all who care about a sunny future for our state's workers and homebuyers to attend these meetings and to support energy efficiency for a stronger, more competitive North Carolina.
Michael Chandler is president of Chandler Design-Build in Mebane.