Expect Eagle County’s building codes to change in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions | VailDaily.com

Expect Eagle County’s building codes to change in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Study: Electrification won't add much more to current building costs

Holy Cross Energy is working to get 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The utility, along with the Palmer Fund and other groups, in April built a 200-kilowatt solar array in Gypsum.
Archive photo

Eagle County is falling short of its climate action goals. New building codes may spur some progress.

The Eagle County Board of Commissioners heard a presentation Monday about a recent state law and what new building codes may look like, and whether, and how, those codes might exceed the legal requirements.

Renewable efforts

Here’s a look at renewable energy goals around the state:

  • Holy Cross Energy: The goal is for 100% renewable energy by 2030.
  • Xcel Energy: The goal is to have 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.
  • State of Colorado: All local jurisdictions must adopt a 2021 building code with electric-ready provisions.
  • Eagle County: Reduce 2030 greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2014 levels.

John Gitchell, the county’s climate action manager, told the commissioners that even with the area’s rapid growth, the county’s greenhouse gas emissions are roughly flat over the past few years, primarily due to Holy Cross Energy’s transition to clean and renewable energy sources.

As of July 1, jurisdictions in the state have to adopt the 2021 version of electric-ready provisions of the International Energy Conservation Code.

To help guide just what the building codes should look like, the county hired Lotus Engineering and Sustainability to analyze new construction energy code standards as compared with the 2015 code. The county now uses that code.

Support Local Journalism

The team from Lotus compared different building types and the potential costs of the changes.

Gitchell noted that he and other county officials have been meeting with local builders. Gitchell said the concern from that sector is that moving to either electric-ready homes or all-electric units might affect costs and affordability.

Kim Schlaepfer of Lotus said meeting the county’s climate goals will require getting fossil fuels out of new construction. That could include converting existing buildings. But, Gitchell said that’s a slow process.

“It’s difficult to change existing structures,” Gitchell said.

The Lotus report examines the potential cost impacts on single-family, multi-family and commercial structures.

Based on those studies, the payback for building to the 2021 code is 7.2 years for a single-family home, and just 3.7 years for a commercial building. The payback is 9.2 years for a multifamily building.

If the county adopts a standard requiring all-electric service — which goes above the basic standard — it could add between $4,000 and $6,000 to the cost of a single-family home, and from $3,000 to $5,000 per unit for a 14-unit multi-family building.

The Lotus study also indicates that an all-electric single-family home will save a few hundred dollars per year over a similar structure that has both gas and electric appliances and heating.

Beyond the costs, electrification has “huge” greenhouse gas emission benefits, Schlaepfer said.

Moving forward, Schlaepfer said county officials need to review the existing code, and work to align new regulations with those passed by neighboring jurisdictions.

County resiliency director Tori Franks said that process will continue with a Jan. 11 webinar to hear from builders and neighboring community representatives.

Whatever decisions are made, Commissioner Matt Scherr said he’d like to see the 2021 code used as a “floor” for more ambitious efforts.

“In my mind we’re a bit behind,” Scherr said. “We don’t want to be behinder.”

Support Local Journalism