Builders Oppose Feds’ Role In State Codes Through Energy Bill

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) told Congress last month that its members are committed to encouraging greater energy efficiency in housing

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) told Congress last month that its members are committed to encouraging greater energy efficiency in housing throughout the U.S. and strongly believe a market-driven approach is the best way to address the nation’s residential energy concerns. Congress should be promoting voluntary energy efficiency programs, extending tax incentives for highly efficient new home construction and protecting housing affordability from arbitrary building code increases when adopting new energy policy, Pennsylvania builder Frank Thompson said in testimony before the House Small Business Committee.

Under current law, building codes must be approved and adopted at the state and local level. Thompson urged lawmakers to remove a provision in energy bill H.R. 3221 that would create a new code-writing role for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for states that fail to achieve significant above-code benchmarks. Underscoring how energy efficiency has been a priority for home builders for many years, he added that NAHB members, who collectively build about 80 percent of all new U.S. homes, have been engaged in public-private partnerships and sponsored many events and programs to bring public awareness to residential energy efficiency.

Thompson noted that NAHB is a partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the DOE’s Energy Star Home Program, which, to date, has resulted in the construction of more than 500,000 homes built to standards that exceed the local building code. The association also participates in DOE’s Building America Program, which conducts systems engineering research to produce homes that consume 30 to 90 percent less energy on a community-wide basis; integrates Zero Energy Home technology and power systems; and, boosts productivity with new, innovative energy-saving materials and technology.

Most importantly, NAHB members have taken the lead to develop the first National Green Building Standard for residential construction that is approved and accredited by the American National Standards Institute, affirmed Thompson. Because the structural and efficiency needs vary greatly for homes built in Florida or New York, versus homes built in Oregon or New Mexico, for example, it is crucial that the code process remains open, is based entirely upon consensus and is protected from overarching encroachment by any federal agency. Establishing mandatory benchmarks and rigorous federal oversight for state building codes would subvert the consensus-code development process, violate states’ rights and impose unwanted and exorbitant costs on home buyers.

Thompson also called on Congress to extend and expand federal tax credits that passed as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, noting that this would encourage the construction of new energy-efficient homes, promote the use of energy-saving improvements for existing homes, and spur new innovation that will result in even greater energy savings in housing construction.