Raleigh, N.C. — A bid to repeal the state's 2012 energy conservation building codes passed the House Commerce Committee Monday, but only after a big change.
House Bill 201 would set aside the most recent code, returning to the less-stringent 2009 codes.
Sponsor Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, said the 2012 version requires builders to improve energy efficiency by 30 percent in new residential and commercial buildings through more efficient lights and HVAC, better windows and insulation or other up-fits.
Torbett said it should be up to the buyer, not the state, to decide whether to spend the money for energy efficiency.
"In one of the worst home-building recessions in this state in forever, should we add additional cost and impact onto the home builders and developers?" he asked. "It's unfair."
However, Torbett supported an amendment by Rep, Tim Moffett, R-Buncombe, removing residential homes from the bill. Only commercial buildings will see their code rolled back to 2009.
Moffett said home builders asked to be excluded because they've already negotiated with the state building council to reduce the margin to 15 percent and came to an agreement to offset the cost – about $3,300 for a 1,600-square-foot home – by allowing savings in other areas of the code.
Thousands of homes have already been built to the 2012 code, and thousands more are underway.
Several committee members spoke against the amendment anyway.
"The code is there not to drive a social agenda," said Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford. "It’s there to build a safe, structurally sound house. We’re trying to put a social agenda in it which I am not for."
"As a builder, I really do agree that a lot of this has to be market-driven," said Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union.
But Rep. Andy Wells, R-Catawba, another builder, spoke against the measure in general, saying lawmakers should either leave the code alone or get rid of it entirely.
"Philosophically, there’s not a conservative argument to roll it back to 2009," he said. "This messing around with the code every year is bad for business.”
Representatives of the green building sector, home builders, and chemical manufacturers also spoke against the measure.
"North Carolina has built better homes for more people, and builders are selling more homes than most places in the country even with the new standards," said Chad Ray with Old Heritage Builders, who urged the committee to remember the benefits to the home buyer. "People don’t deserve to have a home they can’t afford to pay the utility costs on."
The amendment passed by a margin of 24-19, and the amended bill passed by an even wider margin. Its next stop is the House Regulatory Reform Committee.