What's the benefit to a local community of incorporating the newest energy efficiency measures into the building code? For one Colorado town, it’s already worth $1.2 million. The lessons from Parker (located southeast of Denver) underscore how local leaders can help their residents, businesses, homebuilders and commercial real estate developers recognize that spending a little money upfront can lead to big savings in the long run. Can your town, city or county show similar, positive results? Read on.
Most often when communities debate whether to incorporate new energy-saving requirements into their building codes, the discussions leave out or undervalue the economic benefits to the town, residents and businesses. And after the contentious process has finished, the city councils or county commissioners usually won’t hear anything about the good that comes from the energy efficiency standards for several years, until the local government again must revamp the building codes.
SWEEP's buildings team wants to help local communities recognize the value of the newer energy codes, which incorporate updated technologies that lead to lower heating, cooling and electric bills for homeowners and businesses. So, when local leaders consider adoption of a newer energy code, they are better able to weigh the short-term costs against the considerable long-term benefits such as economic, environment, and health.
As part of that effort, SWEEP has set out to recognize communities that have made exceptional progress toward energy efficiency by adopting the latest International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).
For example, starting in 2009 the Town of Parker began its efficiency effort by adopting the then-current IECC. But the community really started making progress when it embraced, first, the updated 2012 codes and, later, the more advanced and cleaner 2015 IECC. The town council endured making the tough decisions even as the suburb’s population rose by eight times, from less than 6,000 people in 1990 to about 50,000 residents (and growing!) today.
SWEEP realized that the town’s actions represented excellent progress but wanted to quantify the economic benefits. We calculated Parker’s energy savings for both homeowners and businesses by using the U.S. Department of Energy’s energy cost analysis methodologies for commercial and residential buildings. Additionally, SWEEP already had developed a good working relationship with Parker’s building officials and, furthermore, we knew that the booming Parker had kept good records of both residential and commercial construction and would provide the data needed to perform the DOE equations.
The results startled even SWEEP’s buildings team. Our initial findings showed Parker had saved its residents and homeowners about $1 million in energy costs. We shook our heads and said "Can this really be true? Can a town of approximately 50,000 generate $1 million in economic value in just over three years?” The question piqued our interest, so we crunched the numbers again. The review showed that our initial numbers had actually underestimated the savings.
Photo courtesy Town of Parker, Colorado
Jim Meyers, SWEEP’s expert on energy efficient buildings, presents the Energy Code Counts award to the Parker town council.
After further research and discussions with authors of the DOE methodology reports, we were confident than we could show more than just $1 million in savings. In all, we demonstrated that by adopting the 2012 and 2015 IECC, the town of Parker had, in the years from 2013 to mid-2016, generated $1,218,238 in economic value for its citizens and businesses.
In November 2016, that information led SWEEP to honor the Town of Parker with a presentation and plaque presented at a Town Council meeting.
Frankly, it’s rare that town councils or county commissions hear the good that’s come from their past decisions. But through a new initiative, SWEEP plans to recognize these leading communities, both large and small, so they can better understand the economic value they have brought to their communities by adopting the 2012 or 2015 IECC.
SWEEP calls this new initiative Energy Codes Count. We are looking for other local communities who have adopted the newer energy codes. We’ll calculate the economic value of their efforts, find high-dollar economic value, and then reward the community for their hard work and initiative for adopting the latest IECC.
Do you know of a community that qualifies to be honored for its efficiency with an Energy Codes Count award? Does your community meet these high standards? Please let us know by contacting Jim Meyers or Christine Brinker on SWEEP’s buildings team.
Jim Meyers, SWEEP Director of Building Efficiency Program