Environmental Groups Want Construction Codes To Lower Emissions, As Well As Utility Bills

Environmentalists advertise that the average Michigan household could save $327 annually on utility bills if the state accepts the latest set of construction energy guidelines, which focus heavily on dropping greenhouse gas emissions. 

The last time Michigan's Bureau of Construction Codes modified the state's go-to standards for residential and commercial construction energy codes was in 2015. 

Now, as the Bureau within the state's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) prepares the final draft regarding energy adaptations, which is expected to be sent to the Legislature this week, environmental organizations urge wholehearted acceptance of the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). 

On Tuesday, organizations like the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, the Ecology Center and the Michigan Environmental Council submitted a letter to Bureau Director Keith LAMBERT. 

The 2021 IECC – the nationwide and partially worldwide model code that Michigan is capable of accepting or dismissing –  is packed with expanded insulation mandates for residential and commercial buildings, new rules for interior lighting controls in residential spaces and debut Zero Energy Commercial Building Provisions. 

Sources like EnergyLogic have described the residential standards of the 2021 IECC as "the most significant changes in model energy codes in the last decade," igniting hope from environmentalists but caution by builders who see it putting up new barriers in the home-buying market. 

"We applaud the Bureau for adopting the 2021 IECC residential code in full. As the Bureau moves forward with the code adoption process, we ask that you maintain the full adoption of the 2021 IECC and adopt no amendments that would weaken its efficiency provisions," the letter reads. 

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Energy published that the 2021 IECC – without amendments – could deliver 10.7% statewide energy savings in comparison to Michigan's present-day code. 

Additionally it could drop statewide carbon dioxide emissions by more than 11.4 million metric tons over a 30-year period – equal to the yearly carbon dioxide emissions of more than 2.49 million cars on the road. 

During the same 30-year period, the federal department projected 4,851 new jobs created in relation to the reduction in utility bills and 6,675 surrounding construction related activities. 

A press release distributing the Tuesday letter featured explanations by project architect David DYE of DFD Architecture, a Spring Lake-based group devoted to design that reduces a home's carbon footprint. 

"What we're talking about is improving the envelope on a building – better insulation and air sealing – which in turn reduces a building's energy consumption," Dye said. "This is an important step for Michigan to take because it reduces the building's greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, which helps combat climate change." 

The letter also calls on the Bureau to reverse an update on its draft commercial code no longer requiring energy monitoring for buildings over 25,000 square-feet. The groups underscored that energy monitoring has been shown to chop down a building's energy consumption by 2% to 8%. 

According to the letter, the decline in energy consumption comes by "giving building owners the information they need to understand how much energy is being used and by what building operations."

"This is because building performance, if not properly monitored and maintained, erodes over time, and energy monitoring ensures that high performance buildings continue to perform as designed over the building's lifetime," the letter reads. 

Furthermore, the organizations utilized their final push to insist there should be mandates around electric vehicle (EV) charging readiness within Michigan's building code. 

As the presence of EVs on American roads is projected to grow to 18.7 million by 2030, the letter highlights Michigan is limited to 480 publicly accessible charging stations equipped with nearly 1,400 charging ports, as well as 146 private charging stations across the state. 

Additionally, the stakeholders participating in the letter note that while it costs between $1,500 and $3,000 to retrofit a home with insufficient supply infrastructure for an EV charger – making an EV-ready home is estimated to cost $500 at the time of construction. 

"We know Michigan's automakers are cranking out a whole new fleet of electric vehicles in the years ahead, and it only makes sense that while we increase publicly available charging infrastructure, we make sure newly-built Michigan homes are ready to plug in," Laura SHERMAN, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, said in the press release.