The Building Community Has Spoken – Green Codes are it!

Updating the building codes is far and away the most important step we can take to implement energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gasses. This was the result of the 2008 Green Building Summit held in Albuquerque this April. The day and a half summit brought together all parts of the building community of architects, engineers, contractors, developers, home builders, product suppliers and government agencies to create a Blueprint for a Sustainable Future in New Mexico. This result has been stunningly reinforced by three separate reports issued this spring that reinforces the urgency of “greening” the building sector to reduce greenhouse gases and increase energy efficiency.

The Tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), established to build cooperation among the NAFTA partners in implementing the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), concluded that promoting green design, construction, renovation and operations of buildings could cut North American carbon dioxide emissions more deeply, quickly and cheaply than any other available measure. The report, Green building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges, is the result of a two-year study that included recommendations to accelerate market uptake of green building and make it the standard for all new construction and renovation.

In March of this year, Hotter and Drier: The West’s Changed Climate, released by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the National Resources defense Council (NRDC) and drawn from 50 scientific studies and 125 other government and scientific sources, documents that the west is being affected by climate change more deeply than any other part of the U.S. outside of Alaska. The global climate has increased an average of 10 F for the last 5 years, but 11 western states averaged a 1.70 F during the same period. New Mexico experienced a 1.30 F rise. The result is that the west is getting hotter and drier with increasing consequences for ecosystems, business, recreation and tourism. This report likewise concluded that building efficiency that lowers building emissions will have a larger impact than any of the other sectors including vehicle efficiency, industrial efficiency and renewable electricity. Not to say that we should ignore these sectors, but buildings need to lead the way.

And, finally, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has made public its findings of a survey of the actual consumption of new green buildings designed through its LEED program that documents efficiencies of an average of 30% reduced energy consumption, 35% - 50% CO2 reduction, 35% - 50% water use reduction and 50% - 90% waste reduction. Unfortunately LEED buildings constitute a fractionally small percentage of all new building. We have to do more and we have to do it quickly.

The answer to meeting this challenge lies with revising the building codes. Every new building and major remodel project is subject to conformance with the codes. They are the lifeblood of building design and where they were originally developed primarily to prevent fire and protect occupants from structural failure, their mission needs to be expanded to include increasing energy efficiency, water use reduction, waste reduction and further increasing occupant health through the use of non-toxic materials and construction methods.

Albuquerque and Santa Fe have taken a first step with the adoption of greener codes which has been an outgrowth of these cities adopting the Architecture 2030 Challenge. The 2030 Challenge goal of carbon neutral buildings by the year 2030 were incorporated into Governor Richardson’s Climate Change Advisory Group (CCAG) recommendations which were unanimously approved by a broad group of energy, business and government leaders. The recommendation is for a 50% building energy use reduction below an average building of that type by 2010 and then incremental percentage reductions to the year 2030 to carbon neutral buildings

Ed Mazria, a Santa Fe Architect who developed the Architecture 2030 Challenge will address the Construction Industries Commission (CIC) on September 19th. It is imperative that the CIC adopt the Architecture 2030 Challenge as policy and then direct the Construction Industries Division (CID), which has jurisdiction over all State codes, to prepare an implementation plan. The implementation process is bigger than any one agency and therefore must include the expertise of the building community to get it right. This can be done through a series of workshops that would include all sectors of the building community to assist in this process and reach an agreeable consensus on how to move forward. That same expertise can then be applied to developing code language and implementation.

We cannot wait any longer. If the Governor wants to reach his greenhouse gas reduction target of 75% by 2050 he must act now and direct the Regulation & Licensing Department to work with the building community and make this happen. Buildings are the key, codes are the solution.

CASA develops the CASA Code Initiative

  1. CASA develops the CASA Code Initiative – a two year program to facilitate the adoption of a progressive Green Building Code in New Mexico. A response to the challenge of raising greenhouse gases and industry consensus.
  2. This long-term project will use Governor Bill Richardson’s Executive Order (05-033), to reduce current GHG emissions to 2000 levels 2012, increase to10% by 2020, and increase to 75% by 2050.
  3. A three-pronged strategy will include: State Agency Involvement, A Code Development Program, and a Political Action-Plan.
  4. This initiative will establish a task force that creates a partnership with the NM State Construction Industries Division; the agency responsible for proposing of all building codes for adoption.
  5. This effort is based on the evidence from actual energy consumption drawn from a recent survey of USGBC LEED For Building Program of significant reduction in, CO2 by 35%-50%, as well as an average of 35%-90% reduction of water use in surveyed buildings.
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