The Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council rejected revisions the 2012 International Code Council building standards Wednesday, missing a significant opportunity to make Pennsylvania safer and more energy efficient.
The UCC RAC voted to weaken Pennsylvania's building standards at the recommendation of the PA Builders Association and ignored approximately 1,900 code updates suggested by the UCC RAC's own subcommittees.
Adopting the 2012 codes three years ago would have cut Pennsylvania’s energy consumption by 15 percent, but the UCC RAC ignored the entire 2012 ICC code. UCC RAC members have blamed the laws that govern their review process for their lack of action, but the UCC RAC’s own internal memos have shown their opposition to energy efficiency regulations.
"Improving the energy-efficiency of buildings is a big winner for our state. It will save Pennsylvanians money on their utility bills, their rent and help them pay their mortgages while reducing air pollution and helping Pennsylvania comply with the Clean Power Plan. Adopting the 2012 and 2015 ICC standards would be a huge step forward for Pennsylvania's environment and economy," said Mark Szybist, Senior Program Advocate for Natural Resource Defense Council.
“Energy efficient building codes will enable us to save money by making structures as efficient as possible the first time, rather than having to go back and retrofit them later,” said Joanne Kilgour, Director of the Sierra Club PA Chapter. “And, adopting the 2012 and 2015 ICC standards is a common-sense, cost-effective way to help reduce our over-reliance on dirty fuels.”
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates if Pennsylvania adopted the 2015 ICC codes, in 2030 the state would save $300 million annually in energy costs. In July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will finalize the first ever limits on carbon dioxide pollution from existing power plants and up-to-date building codes are an easy way for Pennsylvania to comply with this rule.
"We urge the RAC to vote yes on sealing homes to 3 air changes per hour, in line with the 2012 ICC Code. This is the single most important way to minimize heating and cooling costs; it is a literal measurement of how much air is required to fill a home per hour. The lower the number of air changes, the lower heating and cooling costs. The currently enforced 2009 ICC code requires air changes to be 7 per hour. If builders do not invest in tighter homes homeowners will pay more for their heating and cooling and the public will pay through exposure to higher air pollution," said Eva Roben, Climate Change Outreach Coordinator for Clean Air Council.
"In reference to adding RAC members concerned with energy efficiency, the RAC has commented: 'Act 45 does not state energy efficiency is a priority for Pennsylvania, it only says that Pennsylvania is to adopt energy standards. Arguably there are other stakeholders (such as Building Owners (BOMA) and lenders), who have greater stakeholder claim than the energy efficiency industry.' Nothing in the legislation that formed the RAC, Act 45 of 1999, specifies that the RAC is required to cater to building owners. Act 45 identifies the first 'Intent and Purpose' of the Uniform Construction Code, 'To provide standards for the protection of life, health, property and environment and for the safety and welfare of the consumer, general public and the owners and occupants of buildings and structures,'" Roben added.
"Our Public Utility Commission recently hired an independent team to review energy efficiency programs across the state, and they found such programs can return between two and three dollars for every dollar spent. That is just in direct benefits and doesn't include the non-energy benefits like reduced healthcare costs. The U.S. Department of Energy found similar results related to code improvements saying, 'the reduction of energy bills will significantly exceed increased mortgage costs.' The RAC has an important opportunity to protect the health of our citizens while promoting a healthy economy," said Rob Altenburg, Director of the PennFuture Energy Center.For more information, visit the Clean Air Council website.