DENVER — A bill that would force local governments statewide to adopt costly building codes got final approval in the House on the final day of the Colorado legislative session after several amendments aimed at lessening the impact on rural counties were adopted.
Opponents of House Bill 22-1362, Building Greenhouse Gas Emissions, say it will make the construction of new homes more costly and the goal of affordable housing harder to attain.
“Climate policy is not free,” said Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Colorado Springs, who added his constituents share with him concerns of their inability to keep up with the cost of living in Colorado. “It’s actually incredibly expensive … The cost of this bill to affordable housing in Colorado, today, tomorrow, next year, the next several years, when we are in a crisis of housing affordability is more than the people can bear. Anything we do to make it harder to build, to make it more expensive to build is detrimental to the immediate and pressing needs of the people of Colorado.”
The bill requires the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) to adopt three model codes. Local governments would be required to adopt and enforce two of the codes — or any version that is more stringent — and encouraged to adopt the third.
The bill would also add more state spending by creating the “building electrification for public buildings” grant program, and the “high-efficiency electric heating and appliances” grant program. It would also establish an enterprise fund called the “clean air building investments.”
It is sponsored in the House by Democrats Tracey Bernett and Alex Valdez and in the Senate by Democrats Chris Hansen and Faith Winter.
The bill requires the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) to identify three sets of code language:
- Model electric and solar ready code language.
- Model low energy and carbon code language.
- Model green code language.
The bill would require that the basic codes adopted by the CEO achieve “equivalent or better” energy performance than the 2021 international energy conservation code (IECC).
Seventy amendments were offered on the bill with multiple changes that include exempting small rural counties and requiring municipalities to come into compliance only when they change their building codes. Other highlights include:
- Adopt and begin enforcing the 2021 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), or an energy code that achieves equivalent or better energy performance, when one or more building codes are updated, beginning July 1, 2023.
- Adopt electric and solar ready requirements as part of energy codes when one or more building codes are updated, beginning July 1, 2023.
- Adopt and begin enforcing a low energy and carbon code when one or more building codes are updated, beginning July 1, 2026.
Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction said he questions what the bill is really trying to do, saying it’s all about making sure the Front Range is “electrified.”
“Yes, there is a push to put EV (Electric Vehicle) charging everywhere, every corner of this earth,” Scott said. We all know it’s focused on the Front Range. It doesn’t make any sense in rural Colorado. … We didn’t fall off a turnip truck. We know it’s all about right here, right now.”
Scott also questioned the estimated $6 million cost to implement.
“That’s peanuts,” Scott said reminding his colleagues about the exploration that has to be done before any underground project is started. “Is there even the availability of space to run more conduit? … I’m here to tell you it’s going to cost a hell of a lot more than $6 million to electrify this state.”
The 2021 IECC includes such things as requiring all new homes constructed to be all-electric ready, electric vehicle charging port (EV) ready, and solar ready, requirements that those in the industry say will add large costs to the building of a new home.
The 2021 IECC codes have already been adopted in several communities along the front range including Superior and Louisville, where Marshall Fire victims were grandfathered or excluded from the new codes due to the recognized added costs to new construction.
Fort Collins recently adopted the codes as well.
The Homebuilders Association of Metro Denver, as reported by the Associated Press, has said it will cost at least $77,000 more to build a 2,200 square foot home under the new code.
Sen. Dennis Hisey, a Republican from El Paso said on the Senate floor that this bill flies in the face of the affordable housing goals of many legislators.
“We had good discussions about affordable housing,” Hisey said. “We’ve appropriated a boat load of money this session for various affordable housing projects, programs. I’ve had my name on several of them and voted for even more. But often, whenever we would get to the nuts and bolts of what something was going to look like, we would have the discussion about these homes have to be energy efficient.”
Hisey notes it’s those “have to” policies driving up the price of housing
“We say one thing about affordable housing, yet we continue to do something else that continues to drive the cost up,” Hisey said.
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