News Release: Builders urge balance and energy choice in building code proposals
September 28, 2022
Hearings come to Yakima Sept. 29 and 30
OLYMPIA… The Washington State Building Code Council is holding public hearings in Yakima this week on proposals to make Washington’s building codes the most stringent and expensive in the country. Builders will be urging balance and energy choice on behalf of potential new homeowners.
Residential Energy Code
- When: Sept. 29, 10 am – 5 pm
- Where: 129 N 2nd St., Yakima, WA 98901
Codes: IBC (structural), IEBC, IRC, IMC, UPC, WUI and IFGC
- When: Sept. 30, 10 am – 5 pm
- Where: 129 N 2nd St., Yakima, WA 98901
The Building Industry Association of Washington is urging the council to postpone the adoption of the new codes until the housing supply crisis in Washington can first be addressed.
“Already, 80% of Washington families can’t afford to purchase a median-priced home in Washington,” said 2022 BIAW President Joseph Irons. “When we are already facing a housing affordability crisis, we shouldn’t be making it worse by adding more and more costs onto the construction of new homes. As a certified green remodeler and a member of the National Climate Change Task Force, I understand and support the need to address climate change and energy efficiency.
“But at a time when we are ahead of the nation on climate change, but woefully behind on housing, it’s time to bring more balance to the process,” he said. “Washington’s homeowners need homes they can afford with a variety of energy sources to prevent the kinds of rolling blackouts we’re seeing in California.”
An attack on natural gas
Based on a membership poll and national data on the cost of electrifying homes, BIAW estimates this code package will increase the upfront cost of a new home by a minimum of $24,070.
“At a time when every $1,000 added to the price of a new home prices out 2,182 households, these additional costs rob nearly 53,000 families of the opportunity to purchase a home,” Irons said.
The proposals end the ability for home builders to install natural gas cost-effectively in new homes, eliminating energy choice in the state and pushing cooking with natural gas into extinction for new homes after July 1, 2023.
Balance and energy choice needed
“Absent the ability to service natural gas water heaters and furnaces in new housing, natural gas companies lack the incentive to run gas lines to new developments,” Irons said. “New homeowners are not only losing the benefit of a cost-effective and reliable heat source, but they will also now pay exponentially more to have a natural gas range or fireplace—if they can even have it at all.”
The proposals also require heat pumps as the preferred source for space and water heating in all new homes, increasing the up-front cost of a new home by $8,350.
Existing homeowners will have to upgrade their current HVAC systems to heat pumps if they increase the size of their original HVAC equipment. Estimates show that could cost homeowners a minimum of $23,000.
The proposals add another $9,200 to the price of every new home for compliant windows and air leakage requirements. And all new homes with carports and garages will be forced to have electric vehicle charging capabilities, regardless of the cost of upgrading electrical infrastructure, and without a direct mandate from the Washington State Legislature.
Finally, the proposals would prohibit heat pump water heaters from being placed in garages. Instead, new homeowners will have to build large utility closets, taking up usable square footage of new homes.
Added stress on the energy grid, workforce
While BIAW’s primary concerns center around costs to homeowners, balance and energy choice, builders also express concerns about the reliability of Washington’s energy grid and the lack of skilled labor to address the sweeping changes proposed.
“Moving all newly built homes to electricity will increase demand for electricity with no statewide plan for building more transmission lines,” Irons said. “An increase in demand for electricity also requires a robust skilled workforce, and the industry is currently struggling to recruit workers. Once recruited, the required training takes years to complete.”
Read BIAW’s full Building Code briefing.
The Building Industry Association of Washington is the voice of the housing industry as the state’s largest trade association with nearly 8,000 member companies. The association is dedicated to ensuring and enhancing the vitality of the building industry so more Washington families can enjoy the American Dream of owning a home. Learn more at: www.biaw.com