Silverthorne looking for more feedback before revisiting sustainable building code
The town of Silverthorne wants to see some kinks worked out before revisiting the Summit Sustainable Building Code.
The code — which aims to maximize energy efficiency, air quality and water conservation — was passed in Summit County, Frisco, Breckenridge and Dillon in 2020, with Dillon being the most recent to pass it in July of last year.
Builders initially struggled to adapt to the changes, and Silverthorne Mayor Ann-Marie Sandquist said the Silverthorne Town Council wanted to see how implementation goes in other towns first.
Sandquist said council saw that the code was met with some backlash, including a letter to the editor in the Summit Daily News from the Summit County Builder’s Association early in the conversation last year. The letter expressed concerns about increased costs and availability of Home Energy Rating System professionals, who are required in the building process.
Sandquist said the town was also concerned about accessibility to the required inspectors.
“We do this a lot on this kind of stuff; we don’t necessarily want to be the pilot case,” Sandquist said. “We want things to get sorted out and figured out, and then we will go back and adopt it once things are figured out.”
Silverthorne council member Michael Spry said he’s seen conflicting points regarding how much additional money the code will cost builders and how much savings will actually come from the changes.
“I put it through my own personal filter of, ’I don’t want Summit County to be more expensive than it is for very, very minimal impact,’” Spry said. “I’m incredibly concerned about a lot of folks taking positions in towns for an image or a look versus actual, practical impact.”
High Country Conservation Center Executive Director Jen Schenk said in order to hit the Summit Community Climate Action Plan’s goal of reducing emissions 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, all new construction in the county must be net zero.
Although the new codes technically went into effect in July 2020, Schenk said the process has been gradual with a grace period to give builders time to adjust. She said homes adhering to the new rules have started to be built this summer with architects, builders and energy professionals all working together.
“The nice thing about this code is it really encourages that team of folks along with the homeowner to work together in the design phase and design a better home,” Schenk said.
She added that the conservation center has been working with a technical advisory committee within the Summit County government that meets regularly to take feedback from professionals working in the industry.
“I do think, like any new program, there have definitely been some concerns on all sides,” Schenk said. “And I think that everyone is working together and kind of giving this technical advisory group input so that we can make it better going forward.”
Silverthorne is still planning to return to the code, but Sandquist said COVID-19 regulations had taken precedence over other council projects and that council members wanted to get a better understanding of how the sustainable code is working. She also said it’s likely other towns will have to go back and make amendments to the code as they learn more themselves.
Schenk agreed it’s a learning process.
“My understanding is that it’s working well, and we’re learning as we go, but we’re gonna have a lot better homes to show for it,” Schenk said.
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