Recently, the House Energy & Commerce Committee included language that promotes product neutrality in building energy codes within the “North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015” (H.R. 8) – a big win for the forest products industry.
Introduced as a separate bill by Reps. Marsha Blackburn R, Tenn. and Kurt Schrader D, Ore., the product neutrality language also redefines the role of the Department of Energy (DOE) as a technical advisor in the development of model energy codes and subsequent state adoption. The bill now awaits a House floor vote, which is expected to occur within the coming weeks.
Model building energy codes are developed by private standards organizations (i.e. International Codes Council), updated every three years and then adopted by state and local governments.
While the federal government does not adopt codes, per se, the role of the Department of Energy (DOE) in code development has been expanding, moving beyond the original authorization of a “technical advisor” to pushing energy goals and at times even advocating for certain products or technologies over others.
The American Wood Council (AWC) advocates that any code should be technology and product neutral, should not pick winners and losers, and should be a decision made by state and local authorities.
“The Blackburn-Schrader language in the energy package is a step toward ensuring product neutrality so that all building materials have equal opportunity to contribute to meeting building energy efficiency standards,” said Sarah Dodge, vice president of government affairs for AWC. “We have simply asked that DOE not engage in picking product winners and losers in the code adoption process. DOE should help states implement whichever requirements the state decides works best locally, given climate and other state-specific conditions.”
Some manufacturers have realized that by having their product mandated in the code they can gain market advantage. For example, before this language, wall construction favored foam sheathing over wood products in certain climate zones.
“The wood products industry supports economically and technically feasible building energy regulations. Wood buildings sequester carbon from the atmosphere, have a lower embodied energy and can be constructed to use less operating energy, rivaling that of the best performing buildings,” Dodge said. “A green building that begins with lower embodied energy and requires less operating energy will ultimately save on energy bills and increase property values.”
— Energy and Commerce (@HouseCommerce) September 30, 2015
UPTON: HR 8 is about “Fulfilling energy potential – Creating jobs and improving our infrastructure. …” #Yes2Energy
— Energy and Commerce (@HouseCommerce) September 29, 2015