This Washington

BIAW Files Lawsuit to Block New Energy Standards

By Camden Swita June 3, 2010

The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), the conservative construction industry political force, has asked a federal court in Tacoma for an injunction to block the revised state energy code set to take effect July 1.

The Washington State Energy Code sets energy efficiency standards—from everything from ventilation to water heater efficiency—for homebuilders.

At the heart of the BIAW's complaint with the revised code—adopted in 2009 by the Washington State Building Code Council (BCC), an organization created in 1974 to advise the Legislature in building code matters—is a "menu" of additional energy efficiency options and their corresponding credits, ranging from -1 to 2. (The negative credit is included on the list as a demerit; it corresponds to a dwelling unit with 5,000 sq. ft. or more of floor space). Builders must achieve one credit in order to meet the new energy code.

BIAW claims that, because of the way the list is set up, builders are forced to install expensive HVAC and water equipment in new houses which will drive construction costs up by $4,000 to $15,000. This cost increase, the BIAW says, will price many consumers out of the market for new homes and slow a residential construction industry recovery. Specifically, BIAW asserts that some options on the new efficiency menu are simply impossible in many cases, mainly with regard to increased building envelope tightness.

Additionally, BIAW claims that only the federal government has authority over determining efficiency requirements for HVAC/water/plumbing equipment, so the state is illegally overstepping its boundaries.

But the Washington State Department of Commerce (DOC) analyzed the code and concluded that it would only increase the cost of a new home by between about $.50 and $2 per sq. ft. Unless someone was building at least a 7,500 sq. ft. house, that's nowhere near the BIAW's alleged $15,000.

[caption id="attachment_41116" align="alignnone" width="419" caption="Additional cost of construction for a 2,200 sq. ft. gas heated home, according to the DOC."][/caption]

The DOC goes on to state that a buyer of an average-sized house connected to gas should make back the extra cost under the new code within three years due to the energy cost savings, about 18 percent in Western Washington and 26 percent in Eastern Washington.

[caption id="attachment_41117" align="alignnone" width="420" caption="Consumer cash flow after the new code takes effect against year of home ownership, according to the DOC"][/caption]
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