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A large chunk of Idaho's energy conservation codes for buildings could be gutted under proposed changes

Molly Messick
StateImpact Idaho

Discussions are continuing in Idaho's building community over whether to gut a large chunk of the state's energy conservation codes.

The Idaho Building Code Board held a public hearing Tuesday over proposed rulemaking changes, which involve getting rid of certain mechanical, electrical and plumbing design requirements that some state officials and industry groups think are unnecessary and make residential construction too costly.

The suggested changes came from a recommendation by the Idaho Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses, as reported by BoiseDev.

Some who testified Tuesday think the codes — which regulate things like the size of HVAC units, tests for air leakage in new construction, as well as insulation and energy-efficient lighting — are important for consumer protection and keep utility bills low over time.

“There's a reason for it," said Teri Ottens with the Building Safety Professionals of Southwest Idaho. "And the reason just isn't to avoid climate change. It's to make the home more resilient. It's to make the home more comfortable.”

Ken Burgess, a lobbyist for the Idaho Building Contractors Association, argued, on the other hand, that getting rid of a portion of the energy codes would not bring the state back to square one.

“We do not foresee a point where our builders, or our designers, or our architects will abandon these principles as it relates to energy conservation provisions — they’ve become accustomed to doing this," he said.

A state law enacted this year locks in the building codes at the 2018 level established by the International Code Council and prohibits local governments from going beyond that. It also gives the legislature the final say in code revisions, and some lawmakers have indicated an interest in getting rid of the energy portion of the code.

The vast majority of states have adopted some level of energy building codes.

The Idaho Building Code Board has another public hearing on the energy conservation codes scheduled for November.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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