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Pitkin County joins Aspen in adopting stiffer energy code

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesReg Bulkley of Springfield, Ill. soaks in the hot tub at a downtown Aspen hotel after a day on the slopes Wednesday. A new energy code adopted by Aspen, and now Pitkin County, bumps up requirements for energy efficiency in construction and mitigation for things like heated, outdoor hot tubs and pools.
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ASPEN, Colorado – A new, stricter energy code in Pitkin County will bump up the requirements for energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings and, for the first time, force commercial construction to comply with a ground-breaking energy program that has long been in place for residential developments.

Pitkin County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code; the Aspen City Council adopted the code last spring.

It will apply in both jurisdictions, replacing the old Aspen/Pitkin Energy Conservation Code, which was in need of updating anyway, according to Tony Fusaro, chief building official for Pitkin County.

When the two governments initially adopted their own energy code, the goal was to craft rules that were more stringent than what was standard at the time. The latest international code, however, is stiffer in its requirements than what the city and county had in place, Fusaro said.

“It will save more energy than our code,” he said.

The new code will, for example, bump up the standards for insulation in buildings.

Incorporated into the new code is the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, a local initiative that has long required homes of 5,000 square feet or more to offset a portion of their fossil fuel consumption or pay a REMP fee. Outdoor energy uses, such as swimming pools and heated driveways, also trigger payment of a REMP fee unless an on-site energy-conservation system is installed.

Aspen and Pitkin County were the first in the nation to implement a REMP, according to Fusaro. Many other communities have since enacted similar programs, he said.

Under the old code, REMP applied to residential buildings. Under the new code, it also applies to new commercial construction.

In addition to establishing commercial REMP fees, the new code hikes the fees for residential projects and simplifies the calculations, Fusaro said.

Under the new code, an 800-square-foot heated driveway for a home would mean a REMP fee of $29,890. The fee could be partially offset by 96 square feet of solar hot-water panels, reducing the fee to $8,323, or eliminated entirely with the installation of a 4.8-kilowatt photovoltaic system.

The revenues generated by REMP fees go to other energy conservation efforts, including energy-efficiency projects in public buildings and rebates to citizens who install solar panels or photovoltaic systems, or buy certain energy-efficient appliances.

A commercial building, such as a hotel, that installs a 700-square-foot heated swimming pool, an 80-square-foot heated spa and 1,200 square feet of heated driveway would face a total REMP fee for outdoor energy use of $222,913. A 448-square-foot solar hot-water panel installation would reduce the fee to $100,642. Add a 20-kilowatt photovoltaic system, along with the solar panels, and the fee would drop to zero.

Unincorporated Pitkin County doesn’t see a lot of commercial development, Fusaro acknowledged, but those requirements have an impact in the city.

Adoption of the new code will likely have implications in both jurisdictions when it comes to grants from the Governor’s Energy Office, funded by federal recovery dollars. Those funds are tied to adoption of the stiffer code, Fusaro said.

Dylan Hoffman, energy program manager for Pitkin County, said he anticipates plenty of applications for such funds coming from the local community.

The code “opens up the door for a lot of this grant money,” he said.

The federal government is pushing stricter energy codes, and the Department of Energy had a hand in the standards established in the new international code, according to Fusaro.

“The government is really encouraging us all to be more efficient in our use of energy, and these codes reflect that,” he said.

The code, already in effect in the city, will go into effect in about a month in unincorporated Pitkin County.

janet@aspentimes.com


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