State News

Panel: New homes in NC must be more energy-efficient

Posted December 14, 2010
Updated December 15, 2010

— The North Carolina board that sets rules for how homes are built wants builders to improve energy efficiency by 15 percent within two years.

The North Carolina Building Code Council decided Tuesday to order the increase in home energy efficiency and to consider changes to building standards that could cut building costs. Commercial buildings would be required to meet a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency.

The new standards, which become mandatory in March 2012, call for changes like more insulation and energy-efficient windows and heating systems in homes. A study done by Appalachian State University showed the average homeowner could save $30 to $100 in monthly utility costs through such changes.

"I don't think there's anybody in this country that doesn't understand what the future energy costs are going to be and the fact that we've got to deal with it as best as we can," Building Code Council Chairman Dan Tingen said.

The North Carolina Home Builders Association contends that upgrading energy efficiency in a $180,000 home would add about $3,000 to the price tag. Builders say they cannot afford to pass those costs to prospective buyers in a sluggish housing market.

"Our concern is about the consumer that would not qualify for a loan because of these added costs that would be added to the construction of that home," said Robert Privott, director of codes and construction for the builders association.

Tingen, who also is a developer, sympathized with the builders.

"If we can add $3,000 to the cost of a house, it would definitely create better value for the buyer," Tingen said. "If the buyer is willing to pay me that $3,000 additional, I'd be happy to do it, but they just won't. It's a one-sided wheel just lopping down the road, and people aren't happy with it."

Gov. Beverly Perdue's office and home builders negotiated the list of proposed offsets to the cost of building a home to state standards. The proposals include easing requirements on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, making sprinkler systems optional in townhouse projects and changing rules on home foundations.

The council will consider those proposals in the coming months, but some members were already questioning them Tuesday, saying they would risk safety.

"It would cut costs, but at what cost?" said Guilford County emergency services director Alan Perdue, who represents the state's fire services on the Building Code Council. "We don't need to give up health and safety."

New home, home construction generic State building council toughens home efficiency rules

Privott noted that the list of proposed construction cost savings would be reviewed for months, and not all would take effect.

"It's a long list, so there's certainly some things that can be removed," Privott said.

The General Assembly also could step in and reject the council's changes.

The council had voted in September to delay energy changes until 2015, but environmental groups that wanted a 30 percent efficiency increase contended the vote was improper and got the Governor's Office to step in and get the council to bring the proposal up again Tuesday.

For green builder Chad Ray, the best part of the compromise is a how-to manual for builders who want to know what to include and what to leave out of a home to meet a standard 30 percent more efficient than homes built today.

"That sounds simple, but we've never had that before," said Ray, who runs Olde Heritage builders in Zebulon. "The state's better off than with the (home builders association) fighting it tooth and nail."

57 Comments

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  • oldeheritage Dec 16, 2010

    The numbers being used by the NC HBA are being given by people who have never built a Energy Star home. Myself and several other Green Home Builder of the Triangle members are building these homes every day. I know what it costs to build a 15% more efficient home because my homes are 40% more efficient than code right now. It will cost $.50 for the builders when they get the hange of it to the very most $1 per heated sq ft to build more energy efficient the first time. The energy savings are real and should be reflected in the value of the home. The days of cheap energy are over. As builders we have to start building homes that consider how much the monthly costs are for the homeowners nit just the purchase price.

  • blackdog06 Dec 15, 2010

    Once again, I am pleased to see that the state is so concerned about something much more important than cutting back waste on the state level, helping the economy by bringing jobs to the state...oh wait a minute they have...the people who built my house were from another country... Bravo, North Carolina, way to be focused...Tell us we should have green houses, when it cost green backs to buy them, maintain them...oh yeah (the important part) to keep our jobs and make money to pay for them...now I see the savings guess I was blinded by the magnitude of brilliance from the state capitol.

  • blackdog Dec 15, 2010

    "you can sure tell who the tree huggers are on this topic. This will do little except make buying a home more expensive."

    The real expense includes the energy used on said home. Maintenance costs also add to the total cost. Initial cost is one thing, and overall operating cost is another. Using less energy to heat, cool, and illumination, saves money during the entire life of the house. Promoting this direction is the correct approach. It is also necessasary, because some want to say it costs more, when, in fact, it saves much more than the initial investment.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Dec 15, 2010

    so what are the builders going to whine about next?

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Dec 15, 2010

    OGE...it's not just the fact that the government just made your house payment go up about $20 per month...it's the CREEP that makes a difference. The price of EVERYTHING is creeping up, and this just adds another expense to an industry that can't take it. The economy has stalled, and this isn't going to help....I guess this is more important to you than jobs???

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Dec 15, 2010

    you can sure tell who the tree huggers are on this topic. This will do little except make buying a home more expensive.

  • research9 Dec 15, 2010

    thank you 68_dodge; the problem isn't necessarily with the builders, it's with the buyers. Everyone wants the granite countertops and hardwood floors for CHEAP so builders give them the granite and the hardwoods and cut back elsewhere with lighter insulation. They're playing to the market and it's worked for them. I still contend though - that this will hurt them. People aren't going to pay the 3k unless they get some shiny new light fixture or stainless steel appliances along with it. It's not in the best interest of the builders business and in my opinion should not be forced on them in a struggling housing market. However, once a market is actually established for greener homes (notice how there really isn't one yet); THEN you can make the new requirements. Without the market, the requirements will hurt more than they help.

  • notagain1903 Dec 15, 2010

    Well its about time we get into the 21st century. This will put the Fred Smith Homes out of business!! The construction of those homes were done with the "Good ole boy network wink and a hand shake"!! They have walls with studs that are supposed to be 16" on center and are lucky if they are 24" to 36" apart!! Not to mention the low end materials used to construct the house. They put in light fixtures that were hooked to a bare wire and screwed into the plaster board, no brace at all!!! This is the guy who "WANTED TO BE OUR GOVERNOR"!!

  • 68_dodge_polara Dec 15, 2010

    Looking for the government to fix anything is ignorant. Just do your home work and buy a will made efficient home not the largest one can afford.

  • Steven Dec 15, 2010

    The ignorance is just astounding in this thread, but I'm not surprised. And all over "I don't want someone to tell me what to do" or the libruls want it so I don't.

    We have building codes that have changed and improved over the years. If we didn't have them, who knows what sort of junk you'd get in your brand new house. By all means though, go ahead and go back to having lead paint in your house and asbestos.

    You all just like to argue anything just cause someone that might have a different viewpoint as you suggested it. What a small minded world you live in.

    Plenty of information out there that shows the benefits of building greener homes in new construction as well as retrofitting older ones. But hey, live with the cold drafts in your house, etc just because. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

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