New county building code will include Solar Ready and EV Ready provisions

Carbondale got its first Level 3 fast charger in May, and local EV drivers are celebrating the addition to a growing fast-charging network around the Western Slope. Maisa Metcalf / CLEER

The Eagle County building code is being updated to include new sustainability requirements that will help meet the goals of the county’s Climate Action Plan. This week, members of the Resiliency and Community Development team presented two new provisions: The inclusion of a solar-ready space for new residential homes and readiness for electrical vehicle charging stations for all new buildings.

The International Code Council writes new building codes every three years, and Eagle County typically adopts new building codes every six years. The county is currently using the 2015 code, and has plans to adopt the comprehensive recommendations of the 2021 code, but is unable to implement it in its entirety due to staff shortages and capacity limitations.

Tori Franks, the resiliency director, said that the county will be adopting code updates in a piecemeal fashion, prioritizing those that can be implemented more rapidly.

“These smaller provisions are what we felt like we could do now that would be impactful, so we wanted to get to it as quickly as we could,” Franks said.

This week’s presentation was an overview of the new provisions, which will go before the Board of County Commissioners for a vote later this summer.

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Solar Ready

Eagle County’s most recent greenhouse gas emission inventory report shows that 51% of our total emissions originate from buildings, and residential buildings account for 26% of total emissions. In order to meet the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, buildings must move away from gas and coal-powered electrical systems and toward clean, renewable energy sources.

The Solar Ready provision will require all new one-and two-family dwellings and townhouses with no less than 600 square feet of roof area to be built with a solar-ready zone on the rooftop. There will be a minimum size for the zone determined in the code, and will also require routing of conduit to the zone.

The Solar Ready building code provision will require new residential buildings to have a solar-ready zone on the roof. | Courtesy photo
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The installation of a solar field will remain optional, but having the infrastructure built into the original plans will enable a cheaper and easier transition to clean energy for that structure.

“You need to have a well-sized solar zone, and that zone needs to be called out in the construction documents, so if you’re going to go back and do the retrofit, you have very easy access to the documents and you know where everything is,” Franks said. “The idea here is that we’re preparing the building to have solar. It may not, but we want to have it be ready if a new owner or somebody else wants it in the future.”

The county aims to retrofit 5% of existing houses each year with beneficial electrification systems, but the most efficient way to achieve an all-electric housing system is to include the infrastructure in the house when it is first built. Franks said that is why having these requirements in building codes is so effective. 

“Our main strategy for reducing our community base is adoption of building codes,” Franks said. “That’s sort of the way that the county can start chipping away at that.”

This Solar Ready provision is included in the International Code Council’s 2021 building code, and has already been adopted in the towns of Avon and Vail.

EV Ready

Franks also presented an EV Ready provision, which would require all new buildings, commercial and residential, to have a level of readiness for installing electric vehicle charging stations. The level of readiness required will vary depending on the number of parking spaces available at each new structure.

Residential buildings with one to six spaces are required to have one Electrical Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) “ready space,” which includes power, circuit and electric infrastructure terminating in a receptacle or junction box at which a charging station can be installed. Those with seven or more spaces must have 15% of spaces as EVSE “capable space,” meaning there is power, circuit and electrical infrastructure installed but not a receptacle, 10% of EVSE ready spaces, and 5% fully installed Level 2 charging stations.

Non-residential buildings with one space will have one EVSE ready space, those with two to nine spaces will have one EVSE ready space and one installed charging station, and those with 10 or more spaces will have the same 15%-10%-5% breakdown as the seven or more category for residential buildings.

Similar to the Solar Ready provision, the goal of the EV Ready provision is to avoid the extra costs and manpower that retrofitting this infrastructure after construction is completed would require. While EV Ready provisions are not yet included in the latest code from the International Code Council, the local Climate Action Collaborative wrote up language based on similar provisions adopted in areas around the country.

After some small adjustments based on feedback from the commissioners, the Resiliency and Community Development team will put forth the new provisions for a vote later this summer, and plans to implement them shortly thereafter.

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