June 2, 2022
Boulder County Commissioners welcome landmark energy codes legislation
House Bill 22-1362 will increase energy efficiency and cut climate pollution from new homes and commercial buildings
Boulder County, Colo. -- On Thursday, June 2, Governor Jared Polis signed into law Colorado House Bill (HB) 22-1362, which requires updated residential and commercial building energy codes across the state. This landmark piece of legislation supports healthier indoor environments with electric technology and lower energy bills while minimizing buildings’ climate impact. It will help local governments reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work towards local and state climate goals.
“Once a building is built, its climate and health impacts are locked in for generations, so it is critical they be as non-polluting as possible,” said Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones. “That is why we should thank our legislators and especially Representatives Tracey Bernett and Alex Valdez and Senator’s Chris Hansen and Faith Winter, who sponsored this crucial energy codes legislation, and Governor Jared Polis, who signed it into law. Colorado is building at twice the rate of the rest of the nation. Buildings are a major direct and indirect source of greenhouse gases in Colorado, which means building codes are one of the best levers local governments have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The bill raises the minimum energy codes for localities to at least the latest standard — the 2021 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) —with electric- and solar-ready requirements beginning in 2023, and low energy and carbon code requirements beginning in 2026. In Boulder County, most municipalities are at some stage of adoption of the 2021 IECC this year, ahead of the schedule set by the bill. The consistency of shared building codes across the county and the region will make it easier for designers and builders to build to the higher expectations.
“Unincorporated Boulder County already has a building code that exceeds the energy and carbon performance of the 2021 IECC,” said Ron Flax, Chief Building Official for Boulder County. “Our building team is in the process of adopting the 2021 base code and we applaud this effort to raise the performance and consistency of codes so all Coloradans can enjoy safe, efficient, and comfortable buildings.”
One of the greatest local effects of this building codes bill will be a lessening of the greenhouse gases that contribute to the climate change impacts facing Boulder County.
"When the Marshall Fire destroyed over a thousand homes in the middle of winter, we lost the security we once felt at home," said Collin Tomb, Boulder County Climate and Health Strategist. "Building codes used to be about stairs and handrails, but our concept of safety must change as we fight and adapt to the climate crisis. This bill is a step towards securing our future by permanently lowering emissions from every home and business built under these low-carbon codes."
Boulder County supports policies that promote energy-efficiency and electrification in buildings. Boulder County’s Policy Office, Office of Sustainability, Climate Action & Resilience, and Community Planning & Permitting supported the bill from its earliest stages through its passage in the Colorado legislature.
How the regulations work
- The bill directs local governments that have building codes to adopt and begin enforcing the 2021 version of the IECC (or equivalent) as well as electric- and solar-ready requirements, when one or more building codes are updated, beginning July 1, 2023.
- These governments must then adopt and begin enforcing a further low energy and carbon code when one or more building codes are updated, beginning July 1, 2026.
- These codes will be developed based in part on IECC codes by a new 21-member Energy Code Board co-chaired by representatives from the Colorado Energy Office and the Department of Local Affairs.
Housing affordability is integral to the bill
- Multiple studies have shown that the modest up-front cost of building better pays back in energy savings. The 2021 IECC provision alone will save residents an average of 8-9% on their monthly energy bills over the previous code. This is especially important for buyers and tenants who don’t have control over the energy intensity of their homes and businesses.
- Through its electric-and solar-ready provisions, HB22-1362 ensures buildings will accommodate clean energy technology affordably. It is many times less expensive to build in the capacity for clean power and electric heating, cooking, and vehicles up front than to retrofit them later.
- The bill also removes a previous barrier to the sale of equipment using newer climate-friendly refrigerants, which along with electrification, is a key component of building decarbonization in Colorado.
- The bill provides $4 million for training and financial assistance to local governments and builders for code adoption and implementation, as well as $21 million to support technology transition, with at least 30 percent going to lower-income households and disproportionately impacted or just transition communities.
Senator Faith Winter, Colorado Energy Office Director Will Toor, Representative Tracey Bernett, and Representative Alex Valdez look on as Governor Jared Polis signs HB22-1362 in Louisville, Colo., on Thursday, June 2, 2022.