Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hailey passes voluntary ‘green’ building code

‘Build Better’ program could become mandatory in a year

Express Staff Writer

The city of Hailey has led the way for several years in the Wood River Valley with regard to green building practices. The City Council took another step toward energy conservation Monday when it adopted a voluntary green building code for residential construction and remodels that could become mandatory in 2012, based on a measure of its success during a one-year trial period.

The council passed an ordinance Monday establishing recommended guidelines with the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, and a Build Better program, developed by the Hailey Planning Department to increase energy conservation by an additional 10 percent above the 2009 code.

The Build Better program contains criteria to measure many design efficiencies left out of the international code, including water use and the amount of locally produced building materials.

City officials said they would like to receive input on the ordinance from people in the building industry during the one-year trial period.

"We will need answers before this becomes mandatory," Councilman Fritz Haemmerle said.

Mark Pynn, an architect who served for 10 years on the Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission, said he was not in favor of the new ordinance.

"It's very complex and difficult to enact," Pynn said at the Monday meeting.

By contrast, architect Jolyon Sawrey said the new code was only a "small baby step" in the direction of energy conservation goals recommended by the American Institute of Architects.

"We are now 40 percent behind what the AIA recommends," Sawrey said.

Hailey residents are currently using $34,000 from a federal Environmental Efficiency Conservation Block Grant to pay for up to $2,000 per home for "energy audits" and to pay for energy conservation retrofit materials, like windows and insulation materials.

Energy auditors use equipment such as "blower doors," which are fans that measure the extent of leaks in a building envelope, infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation, and a duct-blaster test to assess leaks in the heating duct system.

A home is then rated on Home Energy Rating System index, a points scoring system. The lower the value, the better a house scores. A score of zero means a house is completely efficient, able to sustain itself cut off from the grid.

Hailey Planner Mariel Platt said she will use information gathered from completed energy audits in the valley over the next year to study the effectiveness of the voluntary program, which could become law on Jan. 12, pending City Council approval.

The city will also take questions from architects and builders over the next year as the voluntary ordinance is implemented. One question that arose Monday is how to measure the energy efficiency of a residential design, before the home is built.

The council is considering a 50 percent reduction in building permit fees to offset increased expenses for energy conservation.

Platt said a $300,000 home built recently in Hailey would have would have cost .4 percent more to build under the new ordinance.

"It would have taken 8.7 years for energy costs to pay back a $1,220 investment in materials," Platt said.

Mandatory green building codes are enforced by Portland, Ore., Boulder, Colo., and other cities.

Tony Evans:

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