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A green thumbs-up

Alex Miller

This week, the Eagle County commissioners passed a new set of regulations called “Eco-Build.” The idea is to require new single-family homes to meet requirements making them more energy efficient and less of an impact on the landfill.We support the new rules, believe they should next be extended to include all new buildings in the county, and encourage the incorporated towns to follow the county’s lead. Here’s why:Every year, thousands of new homes and other buildings are constructed across the country, each one of them with a myriad choices to be made along the way. Those choices range from how big the house is to how it’s situated in relation to the sun to what kind of heater is being installed to the types of building materials to be used.Riding on each one of those decisions are impacts related to the cost of maintaining the building and to the overall environment. If builders don’t give a thought to where the sun hits, the building could have to suck a lot more energy to heat it or cool it. Cheap carpet and toxic adhesives used inside could mean “outgassing” of lung-busting pollutants for months or years. And a few bucks saved on a cheaper boiler could translate into hundreds or thousands of dollars more spent annually on natural gas or electricity.Beyond the financial and health benefits to the owners and inhabitants, making such “green” choices also represent a greater good to the county, state and nation. Creating regulations to encourage this kind of construction levels the playing field, since everyone has to meet the new code, and we all benefit as a result. There are some who will no doubt decry the new regulations, saying they increase the price of building in a county where homes are already prohibitively expensive. This argument doesn’t hold water, though, for several reasons:Additional up-front costs are eased by reduced building-permit fees, not to mention the reduced cost of operating the building over time. Compare it to a new Honda that costs more than a new Pontiac. You might pay more up front, but the reduced fuel costs will make up for it before long. Also, the more of these types of regulations are put in place, the more the market grows for better home-building products and practices, which will drive the costs down. Additionally, if there was ever a market where some additional building costs could be absorbed, it’s in Eagle County. We do agree with Commissioner Tom Stone – who voted against the new regulations – that the limiting of the rules to single-family homes and duplexes is problematic and could cause trouble. Let’s see how the new regulations go over the coming building season, then look to the fall to revise them as needed including the addition of most other kinds of buildings to the code.Eventually, all buildings in the U.S. will be constructed with these sustainable practices in place. It makes sense for a county like Eagle to help lead the way.


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