Frisco, Summit County adopt new sustainable building codes
FRISCO — Frisco officials continue to take steps forward to help achieve sustainability goals outlined in the town’s strategic plan and the Summit Community Climate Action Plan.
The Frisco Town Council unanimously voted to adopt the updated Summit Sustainable Building Code during a virtual meeting April 14, effectively enacting new requirements for increased energy savings in new construction projects.
The new code was created in collaboration between the High Country Conservation Center, Summit County and the local towns and building community.
“Thank you so much for your continued leadership on climate action,” Conservation Center Executive Director Jennifer Schenk said at the meeting. “As you know, in order to hit our greenhouse gas reduction goals, we must be net-zero on new construction by 2030. That was modeled out by our consultants at the time we created the climate action plan. The zero energy ready homes program is a critical stepping stone to achieve these goals.”
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Frisco joins Summit County — which approved the new standards during an online meeting March 31 — as the only entities to adopt the code so far. The Breckenridge Town Council passed an ordinance on the codes on first reading in February and is likely to broach the subject again later this month. While not scheduled, both Dillon and Silverthorne are largely expected to follow suit.
The new codes will serve to bring even stricter regulations to building projects than the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code update, which was adopted by the area’s government entities earlier this year.
The key point to the update deals with improving energy efficiency in commercial and residential buildings. Any new commercial construction will be required to achieve an additional 10% energy savings above the international energy conservation code. Developers will be allowed to follow a “prescriptive path” to achieve the requirement — either via installing on-site solar technology or energy efficiency packages outlined in the international code — or a “performance path,” wherein energy modeling must show a 10% reduction in energy use compared with baseline buildings.
Residential developers also will have a choice between a prescriptive path — which includes a set of specific measures — or a performance path that allows builders to pick and choose from a number of energy saving measures to meet a predetermined target Home Energy Rating System score. Homeowners participating in renovations worth more than $50,000 on existing homes also will be required to get a home energy audit to obtain a building permit.
Additionally, both residential and commercial buildings will be required to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure on new builds.
While the new codes certainly represent a step in the right direction for the county and town’s sustainability goals, not everyone is thrilled with the update. In February, Summit County Builders Association board president Blake Nudell penned a letter to the editor in the Summit Daily News opposing the codes, noting a lack of Home Energy Rating System raters in the county and cost increases associated with the codes, among other concerns.
The association, a nonprofit that represents the interests of businesses in the building industry in Summit County, hasn’t changed its tune much in the following months.
“The Builder’s Association is not opposed to it; we just have some concerns that it’s too much too fast and not necessarily needed,” association Vice President Paul Camillo said. “We feel that we’re spending a lot of money to chase very little improvement in energy efficiency.”
Camillo continued to say that while the building community was looped in to the planning process, some members often felt overlooked as other stakeholders pushed forward in developing the code.
“To be fair, we had involvement in it,” Camillo said. “But our involvement, we feel, was somewhat stifled. Some felt that when we would send things to the group, they got looked past. There’s a general feeling that this was something everyone wanted to go into effect, and I don’t know that there was anything we could have said to change anything.”
On the other side of the debate, stakeholders voiced that the new measures were necessary to get the building community familiarized with the Home Energy Rating System and performance-based building so that the county and other entities are able to meet their long-term sustainability goals.
“It’s a great first step,” said Jess Hoover, climate action director with the High Country Conservation Center. “If the ultimate goal is a (Home Energy Rating System) score of zero, getting a baseline understanding of working with a third-party energy rater and dialing in the process is going to be really important so we all have the same fundamental starting point, and so when we do look in the future to push those home energy scores down, everyone feels comfortable with the process and will know what they need to do to get there.”
The Summit Community Climate Action Plan outlines goals to reduce countywide emissions 50% by 2030. About two-thirds of the county’s emissions come from energy use in buildings, and as officials continue efforts to transition into net-zero building over the next decade, members of the building community should see energy restrictions continue to tighten in the coming years.
The new code kicks in July 1, though residential developers will get a six-month grace period on permits submitted through the end of the year. The period is meant to give builders some time to learn how the new code requirements will function and work out the kinks before full implementation begins Jan. 1.
“There’s definitely a desire to not overly burden the building community and change things on them all the time,” Hoover said. “But this is not the end of the line.”
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