Aspen adopts strict new building codes for homes, aligning residential construction with the city’s climate goals

To hit net-zero by 2050, Aspen says it needs new building codes and construction regulations to reduce greenhouse emissions

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
A man walks his dog past a property with a bare lawn caused by a home remodel on S. West End Street in Aspen, Colorado on Thursday, June 30, 2022.
Kelsey Brunner/Special to The Colorado Sun

ASPEN — The Aspen City Council last week adopted some of the strictest home building codes in the state as the community aligns its ambitious climate action goals with land use regulations. 

The Aspen council suspended home construction in the city in December 2021 to better study the impacts of the city’s over-the-top residential market, which sees homes selling for as much as $6,000 a square foot. After approving strict regulations limiting short-term rental permits and home demolitions, the council this week took another major step toward reforming how homes are built in one of the continent’s most expensive markets.

“This is a clear statement that this council and this organization continues to lead when it comes to thinking about climate in a wide range of policy and regulatory spaces,” said Phillip Supino, the city’s community development director. 

The 40-page list of new building regulations align home construction with the city’s Climate Action Plan. Adopted in November 2021, the climate plan aims to reduce the city’s greenhouse emissions by 63% by 2030 and to zero emissions by 2050. Buildings account for 57% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, with most of those emissions coming from Aspen’s palatial homes. 

The new building codes make 49 amendments to the International Building Code, which is the international standard for building safety and efficiency. Some of the larger changes require automatic fire sprinklers and fire-resistant exteriors on all new homes. Insulation requirements are all increased, with a requirement for triple-pane windows in all new homes. All air conditioning units in new homes must be heat pumps. The new building codes incentivize electrification of everything with expedited review of homes that run on just electricity. 

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