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Rocky Mountain Chapter - Colorado

Welcome to the

Building Energy Codes Pages for Local Governments

Greetings Trustees, Commissioners, and Building Officials:


Stop heating the great outdoors! (And I'm not talking about global warming) How often, when you were a kid, did you hear your mother say something like, "It's cold in here! Which one of you kids left the door open? Our utility bills are high enough without having to heat the great outdoors!"

            Whether or not you were the one leaving the door open as a kid, if your jurisdiction hasn't adopted an updated Building Energy Code (BEC), you're the one leaving it open now. What would your mother think!

            As the organization responsible for setting and enforcing standards to ensure that the buildings in your community provide a safe and comfortable environment for those who live and work in them, the burden of resource conservation falls to you as well. It is now up to you to see to it that the door is closed; that available resources are used wisely.


Why you?


Recognition that energy conservation is vital to the public welfare is public policy in the state of Colorado. The state's statutes mandate that the promotion of energy conservation be implemented through master plans and building codes, and grant local jurisdictions the authority to do so. (CRS 6-7-102, CRS 30-28-115, CRS 31-23-206 and 207, CRS 31-23-301). Find the Colorado Revised Statutes by going to the government link on the official Colorado State web site.


What is a BEC?


A building energy code is a set of standards adopted as part of your building code. This set of standards affects the energy efficiency of the buildings in your jurisdiction. A BEC can be as basic as addressing only wall and roof insulation, as those in effect in Gilpin County and Delta, or as broad as Aspen's Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP), which imposes substantial fees for new homes that exceed an energy-usage allotment.

            The ideal BEC addresses the issue of energy consumption on a whole-structure basis. It integrates efficiency standards for lighting and mechanical systems with those associated with structural systems such as insulation and glazing. This is the same concept applied by DOE's Building America in its Whole House and Systems Engineering Approach. It offers the benefit of matching each component of the structure for the highest efficiency. It is pointless to require a high R value in walls and roofs if the savings escape through leaky duct systems or are eaten up by a mismatched heating system. The Model Energy Code (MEC), now the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) has developed to fit this description. It is a comprehensive model code designed to be adapted to any climate zone and offers the flexibility to serve the varying needs of diverse communities.


What are the benefits?


Not only does energy conservation through local building codes help maintain a healthy environment regionally and globally, as well as reduce our reliance on foreign energy sources, but energy efficient building codes have benefits for your own community. In 1977, the state of Colorado adopted the Model Energy Efficiency Construction and Renovation Standards for Nonresidential Buildings. An evaluation of the effectiveness of those standards, conducted for the state Office of Energy Conservation in 1980[1], concluded that energy use was reduced by approximately 40% in office buildings and approximately 30% in retail stores and warehouses.

            While the state has extended its mandate for basic energy efficiency standards (CRS Title 6, Art. 7) to include hotels, motels, and multi-family dwellings, it is up to local jurisdictions to strengthen those standards and extend them to all residential buildings. To date, far too many have failed to do so. Colorado is fourth in the nation when it comes to per capita energy use. According to the U.S. Department Of Energy's Energy Information Administration in 2000, residential use accounted for 22% of the state's energy consumption - 10% more than commercial use. This represents a considerable potential for savings.

We save more than fuel when we increase energy efficiency. Reducing energy use through BEC's is projected to reduce pollutant emissions from the burning of fossil fuels by literally millions of tons per year (Over 1 million tons in New York alone). Fossil fuels provided the source of over 96% of Colorado's energy production in 1999. Those pollutants degrade human and environmental health. The costs of air pollution, in terms of public health alone, run into the tens of billions of dollars annually in the United States, not to mention the impact on our quality of life. Much of the money we spend on energy leaves our local economy. Conserving energy use at home leaves the local consumer more to spend in the local community, enriching the local economy and helping to create jobs locally. Case studies project substantial dollar savings through the adoption and effective implementation and enforcement of a BAC. Homeowners can benefit from higher loan values, and lower down and monthly payments, while the costs of energy efficient construction need not add appreciably to the overall cost of a home. There is ongoing activity in the legislative arena regarding energy tax credit programs and related issues.


How do you close the door?


Adopt a BEC based on the IECC 2000 model. If you already have a BEC as part of your building code, update it based on that model. While the development, adoption, implementation and enforcement of energy conservation components require considerable resources, the burden of doing so is not entirely on your shoulders. The U.S. Department of Energy provides probably the most comprehensive variety of resources to aid you in all facets of this process. More resources are provided by Colorado Energy, the Building Codes Assistance Project,  Smart Communities Network, and Building America.

            You also have the opportunity to take advantage of the experience of other Colorado communities that have already adopted a BEC. In addition to input provided for this site by several local jurisdictions throughout Colorado, E-Star Colorado produced a detailed Analysis Final Report on Residential Energy Codes, and the City of Fort Collins produced a similar analysis of their own BEC. Together, these two documents will address almost any question you may raise regarding the process, obstacles and problems you may encounter, strategies for overcoming them, and benefit/cost analysis.

            As an additional resource, we have provided some examples of the language other Colorado jurisdictions have used to integrate a BEC into their building code.


Why should you use this standard model?


The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is a Model Energy Code (MEC) developed by the International Code Council. It is one component of a system of model building codes that embodies a whole-building or systems concept of  standardization. It affords the regulating authority as well as the builder a flexible environment in which to adopt, enforce, comply, and update.

Why update? For builders and homeowners alike, the patchwork of standards enforced from community to community makes the job of compliance and the fulfillment of consumer expectations difficult. The adoption of a uniform code across jurisdictions helps to ensure, as a matter of public policy, that the expanding expectations homeowners and buyers have, that their homes will be energy efficient, will be met. In the long run, consistent standards across jurisdictions help builders and suppliers by giving them one standard to follow, saving them the costs of following different practices and using different materials in different jurisdictions. In the country's largest venue New York, the home builders association agrees, and supported the adoption of just such a BEC. If you are currently using a version of the MEC or IECC 1998, it is important to upgrade to IECC 2000 because of numerous changes that have taken place over time. While the IECC has expanded in scope to cover more building components, it has made it easier to identify, evaluate, and remedy compliance issues. IECC 2000 reflects a consistent process of clarification and unification of standards, simplification of language and processes, and enhanced flexibility in compliance and enforcement through the provision of analytical, compliance and enforcement tools.


Close the door on waste.


We thank you for visiting our Building Energy Codes pages, and hope that they have been helpful in informing your interest in energy conservation through building codes. Please feel free to contact us with comments or suggestions regarding this project, and please close the door when you leave. Thank you.




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[1] Cattany, Croy, and Rup, Evaluation of the Nonresidential Energy Conservation Building Standards of the State of Colorado, in Research and Innovation in the Building Regulatory Process, U.S. Department of Commerce/ National Bureau of Standards, NBS Special Publication 608, June 9, 1981, Library of Congress Catalogue Card #81-600044, Auraria Library #C 13.10:608, pg. 6