Breckenridge brings back sustainable building code training period

After hearing feedback from the building community, town determines more time is needed to learn about the code

Main Street in Breckenridge is pictured Thursday, Aug. 19. Breckenridge Town Council decided to bring back a training period for the Summit Sustainable Building Code after hearing feedback from builders.
Tripp Fay/Summit Daily News archive

Breckenridge Town Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance bringing the town back into the training period of the Zero Energy Ready Homes provision of the Summit Sustainable Building Code.

Community Development Director Mark Truckey said the town has been in conversations with builders as they are still learning the ins and outs of the code. He said the town has heard from several contractors running into problems meeting the code and issues they feel could be counterproductive to the energy efficiency goals of the program.

“The intent is good, but I think some of the execution and some of the details are causing problems,” Truckey said during the town council’s work session.

The code aims to maximize energy efficiency, air quality and water conservation in an effort to work toward goals outlined in the Summit Community Climate Action Plan, which include reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

A training period was initially implemented for the code to allow builders and contractors to learn about it before needing to be in full compliance. Breckenridge was in this training period from July to December of 2020, requiring full compliance starting in 2021.

Summit County extended its training period through the end of 2021 to give builders more time to adapt, and the Town of Silverthorne has not adopted the code because it wanted more time for feedback on issues builders have been having with the code.

Jess Hoover, climate action director at the High Country Conservation Center, said the center is supportive of Breckenridge extending the training period as it gives builders more time to learn the nuances of the code.

“We want the building community to feel supported,” Hoover said. “We are actively working with the town of Breck and the other municipalities across the county to put together multiple training workshops … addressing some of the questions that have been raised so that we make sure that everyone continues feeling supported and that this is a very smooth transition to the code.”

Council member Kelly Owens said she wants to see those who have issues with the code continue being involved in the process. She said it seems like the town is “backing off,” while she would like to continue pushing this forward since there was a long public process prior to the first implementation.

Mayor Eric Mamula pointed out that builders are likely discovering issues with the code as they go along with it, to which council member Dick Carleton agreed.

“I appreciate how constructive some of these engaged contractors have been,” Carleton said. “There’s nobody else in this climate zone, so we’re kind of in uncharted territory for some of this, so I think it makes all the sense in the world.”

Paul Steinweg, with Iron Forest Building Co., said extending the training period will be beneficial for builders, homeowners and energy raters as everyone takes the time to understand what the code is meant to accomplish.

“I think it’s a phenomenal call on their part,” Steinweg said of the council’s decision. “It allows for proper training, it allows for proper education, and I think it honestly allows space for everyone to figure out … what makes sense and what parts don’t make sense.”

Steinweg also said he is glad there will be more time for builders to provide feedback on the code. He said one of the issues he’s seen with the code relates to insulation around windows and small distinctions that will bring a home into regulation, but can cost a homeowner much more money with little impact on efficiency.

“We totally feel supported and totally feel heard,” Steinweg said. “We’re so grateful for the people on the council that have taken the time to hear that story and to make some change and slow things down. And even if nothing does change, it’s good that they’re listening.”

Another example Truckey heard relates to overly insulating a home to the point that it could require air conditioning if it is in direct sunlight. He also said the Department of Energy has a glitch that penalizes someone for building a completely electric building with no natural gas, which he said the department knows about and is working to correct.

“These are all things that we think we can work through, but we need some time to do that and so we prefer to go back to a training period to get the builders used to going through the program, but not at the end of the day require full compliance,” Truckey said.

Blake Nudell, president of Travis Construction, Inc. and the Summit County Builders Association, said it’s great to have a town council listening to the builders of Summit County.

“This is beneficial to all involved, builders, architects, designers and the clients,” Nudell said in an email.

Truckey also said the town will continue working with a technical advisory group to identify and address issues in the code so that when it goes live again it will be most efficient.

The training period will continue indefinitely until council is ready to fully adopt and require compliance with the code.

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