© 2024 WFAE

Mailing Address:
8801 J.M. Keynes Dr. Ste. 91
Charlotte NC 28262
Tax ID: 56-1803808
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Exploring how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

Lawmakers, code council continue fight over energy efficiency rules

The proposed rules would mean tighter energy efficiency requirements for new homes and offices.
David Boraks
The proposed rules would mean tighter energy efficiency requirements for new homes and offices.

More debate is expected this week in a fight over whether to modernize North Carolina's building code, including rules that would require new houses to be more energy efficient.

This debate is happening at both the governor-appointed state Building Code Council, which is pushing for the changes, and the state legislature, which is trying to delay any updates to the codes.

The current state building code is outdated, with sections dating from as far back as 2009. So the Building Code Council has spent the past two years drafting modern rules. They would bring the code up to 2021 international standards, in part to cut energy costs and reduce climate pollution — a goal of Gov. Roy Cooper.

Last month, the state House passed a bill that could block any updates until 2031 and limit the governor's power to appoint the council. This week, the state Senate is considering a similar bill. It's expected to come up in the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.

A key issue is whether home builders should have to meet stricter energy efficiency standards for things like insulation, windows and heating and cooling systems. Council member Kim Wooten helped draft the rules and said the code changes would save homeowners money in the long run, at a time when energy costs are rising.

Wooten said some Republican lawmakers "decided that they would simply take this up by statute and change the laws to prohibit North Carolinians from receiving energy savings. They force new homebuyers to pay more for energy than in other states. They force homebuyers to not have a safe home. They prohibit fire sprinklers from being adopted in jurisdictions, again, preventing homebuyers from receiving the benefits of a safe, secure, energy-efficient home that saves them money and may save their lives."

The bills' Republican sponsors and the North Carolina Home Builders Association argue that tightening energy efficiency requirements would add an average of $20,000 to the cost of a new home and make new homes unaffordable.

But a study by the federal Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the council found the updates would add only $4,000 to $5,000. Supporters of the council's proposed revisions say energy savings under the new standards would quickly erase those higher up-front costs.

Meanwhile, Wooten said if North Carolina doesn't go through with the update, it will lose federal aid under programs that require a modern energy code.

The Building Code Council was supposed to vote on the code updates Tuesday. But Wooten said they're still waiting for a "fiscal note" from the state insurance department, which could require delaying the vote until September.

Meanwhile, homebuilders have put forward a competing resolution at the council that also could limit the proposed modernization.

Sign up for our weekly climate newsletter

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.