BROWN: Save money in new home construction

If I told you that the State of Michigan could save residents building new homes a net average of $478 every single year, or $10,000 on average, you would probably think that would be a relatively easy public policy decision to make.
Apr 24, 2014

Unfortunately, it’s not — and this is a real opportunity that is in jeopardy of not being pursued.

What’s at issue here is the adoption or rejection of the United States Department of Energy-supported 2012 new home construction energy code update. Gov. Rick Snyder and his director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs have the authority to adopt these cost-saving code improvements, saving hundreds of dollars annually for occupants of newly constructed homes.

Full adoption of the 2012 codes will save money in both the short and long term. Homes built under the new standard will have average energy costs 30.9 percent less than homes built to Michigan’s Uniform Energy Code (2009 standard).

Because most new homes are financed, the DOE finds, “After accounting for up-front costs and additional costs financed in the mortgage, homeowners should see net positive cash flows (i.e., cumulative savings exceeding cumulative cash outlays) in one year for the 2012 IECC.” More simply, less money will be going to pay for your mortgage and energy costs in the first year, and all the energy upgrades will completely pay for themselves in 3.5 years.  

Full adoption of the code would encourage energy-efficiency improvements that are longer-lasting and much more effective than changing out light bulbs and low-flow showerheads. The codes would include permanent improvements to a building’s shell, including better windows and stronger insulation. The walls and shell of a home would be made tighter and have less duct and HVAC leakage. Hot water pipes would have to have better insulation to allow hot water distribution to be more efficient. These measures are most cost-effective at initial construction. 

Energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest and most quickly deployed source of energy available to Michiganders. Why do I and other environmentalists love energy efficiency so much? Because it allows us to be a direct advocate for the consumer and family budgets now. It’s a direct and local investment in our communities that employs skilled workers locally and keeps pollution out of our air and water. 

Unfortunately, the public interest in this case is being seriously challenged by powerful lobbyists and special interest groups working for the perceived short-term benefit of a few. Incredibly, some want go even further than rejecting the 2012 update; they intend to roll back energy-efficiency measures already embedded in Michigan’s code — improvements that are currently saving Michiganders energy and money.

Even if it were a good idea to reject the 2012 code to benefit a narrow range of special interests in the building sector (it is not), those winners would come at the expense of other Michigan business losers.
Our state is home to large and small manufacturers of energy-efficient building products and services.  Building energy-efficient homes is good for business and good for the economy, but you don’t need to take an environmental group’s word for it. The world’s largest business organization, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, advocates the same. The chamber’s national policy platform calls for “legislation to boost private-sector investment in building efficiency upgrades, help manufacturers reduce energy use, update lighting and appliance standards, and strengthen building codes.”  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports national model building energy codes.  

Both single and multifamily homes built to the new 2012 energy code standards will save energy and money — lots of it. If Michigan updates its building codes, the state will save nearly $230 million annually by 2030.

In December 2013, Gov. Snyder laid out his vision for a “no regrets” energy future. Wisely, the governor called for an emphasis on “eliminating energy waste” and has made that goal a foundation of his energy plan. Speaking on energy and the environment, the governor has said, “There are things we can do today that benefit us right now and pay dividends tomorrow, no matter what the future holds.” 

Adopting the 2012 energy code is smart policy that moves Michigan toward a “no regrets” energy future. We should not miss this opportunity.

Gov. Snyder and LARA should fend off challenges to current efficiency standards and adopt the full 2012 code this year.  

— Becky Brown is the water programs outreach coordinator for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Comments

Vladtheimp

Although many states and home builders seriously question the Department of Energy's low balling of the costs that will be incurred by adopting the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code, I consider it laughable that the writer, employed by the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, considers builders and supporters of reasonable energy use to be "special interests".

Environmentalists, who build and produce nothing yet employ lobbyists to obtain taxpayer dollars for green boondoggles are not "special interests"? The Sierra Club alone has spent several millions of dollars lobbing for its interests alone over the past 6 years, and they are only one of many.

And what does Ms. Brown's special interest group support in addition to the adoption of costly energy codes?

Government prohibition of any new coal plants, even though coal is cheap, reliable, and out main source of energy

Government policies based on driving citizens into "urban cores" rather than suburban communities;

Increased wind farms in Lake Michigan;

Increased taxpayer expenditures on costly and unreliable wind, solar, geothermal, wood scrap energy sources;

Increased taxpayer expenditures on public transportation and electric cars (think Chevy Volt):

Of course there are others, but, to paraphrase an old question "When is a Special Interest not a Special Interest?" Answer - when it is an environmental group lobbying in support of it's own special interest at the expense of taxpayers.

GH55

The least expensive energy is the energy you don't use! This country needs to turn around from the mass gluttony we have exhibited for many years.
The "taxpayer expenditures" for alternative energy is a drop in the bucket compared to what is spent and given away to the fossil fuel industry. Now there are some lobbyists!
The USA lags way behind the rest of the world in installation of all asorts of alternative energy sources. This "stuff" is no longer experimental, capital is not being expended by companies such as Consumers Power and Con Ed out of the goodness of their hearts. Their shareholders would not allow it.
If we can produce the electricity by alternative means why should we continue to blast off mountain tops, ship millions of tons of coal many miles from the source, then burn, emitting the effluent to include mercury in the lakes, and then having to deal with all the toxic ash?
"We've been doing it that way for years!"
Instead of "driving citizens into urban cores", perhaps the term preventing urban sprawl with all its associated ills, like traffic. You can never build enough roads, they will always fill up if there are no alternatives. Why would you want to spend an hour at the start and end of each day fighting with you fellow man who is also sitting in his car by himself?
There are no wind farms in Lake Michigan, and until they figure our that pesky ice problem, probably won't be!
As I said before, the taxpayer funded expenditures for alternaitve energy are a drop in the bucket compared to what we give away to the fossil fuel producers, regardless of the billions of dollars they make in profit a year. Why are our tax dollars going to pad their shareholders pockets?
Again, we need alternatives to the single car transportation system we have now. It is unsustainable.
I built my house to greatly exceed the minimum requirements of the building code. I don't want all the heat I am buying going out the roof!
I don't understand the mentality that continues to express the opinion that we should just consume as we all want. Resources are limited. My money is limited. I sure don't want more of it going to those that are gouging me to begin with. How often does that word come up when talking about gas prices? Often.
Why should we continue to build more taxpayer paid roads to encourage more people to live farther away from where they work and shop? I would prefer to see a more sustainable approach that would make the environment more liveable for all. Or should we continue to poison everything so we can drive our big trucks and SUV's to work alone everyday?

AndreaCarano

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