Boulder Council Signs Off on New Energy Conservation Code

Believing that its aspirations and performance too far outpace targets of the International Energy Conservation Code, Boulder, Colorado, is striking out on its own with a new, city-specific energy code that it believes will be stricter on emissions and easier for customers to use, according to a February 25 by the Boulder Daily Camera.

Boulder’s City Council approved the new program, which is called the City of Boulder Energy Conservation Code, in a unanimous vote.

The code includes requirements that new commercial and residential buildings offer electric vehicle charging infrastructure and be “solar ready” — that is, wired for the possible installation of future PV systems, the local news outlet said.

On the commercial side, among the most significant changes to construction requirements are the following:

  • Revised prescriptive energy code requirements and new requirements for alterations to commercial buildings;
  • Revised mandates on how multi-family buildings are now addressed in the commercial energy code; and
  • Requirements that electric vehicle charging infrastructure be in place, and that the building must be “solar-ready” for the installation of future photovoltaic systems

On the residential side, 5,000-square-foot houses now are required to be “net zero.” Smaller homes will be subject to less stringent rules initially, the newspaper said, but the city plans to extend the net-zero requirement to a wider set of properties over time.

The program also allows for off-site renewable energy use by residential customers – such as enrollment in a community energy program. In addition, the city is imposing stiffer landscaping regulations for homeowners.

The move is expected to save 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in Boulder by 2031 – the year by which officials are hoping to have net-zero energy codes for all buildings in the city.

Boulder also is intent on reaching an 80 percent cut from 2005 levels, of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and reductions resulting from the newly approved building code are expected to bring Boulder about one-eighth of the way toward the 2050 goal.

City staff believes adopting a stand-alone city code will make compliance simpler because, to this point, customers have had to reference amendments in the Boulder Revised Code and then find those amended sections within the international code.

We’re simplifying the regulations even as we’re raising the bar,” Mayor Suzanne Jones told the local news outlet.

Energy Services Manager Kendra Tupper explained the city staff’s approach. “It’s much more difficult to achieve net zero in a commercial building than it is in a single-family home, just because of the energy density,” she said. “So, that’s sort of why we’re leading with residential.

Overall, the program is scheduled to receive a comprehensive update every six years, with smaller amendments made every three.

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