Aspen no longer a leader in carbon reduction policy

I was hugely disappointed to learn that Aspen no longer seams interested in being viewed as a leader in carbon reduction. The City has just adopted, what is, in my opinion, a relaxed version of the International Energy Conservation Code. The Building Department asked me for data. So I went through 140 different blower door tests and HERS Ratings I had on file to get a feeling for how our new construction is looking. Summary of data below…

locationnumber of testsnumber of tests over 3 ACH50ACH50 averageACH50 lowACH50 High
City of Aspen49263.41.267.08
Pitkin County42203.231.286.37
Snowmass Village874.122.925.71
Town of Carbondale26133.061.165.8

In terms of HERS Ratings- RESNET says the national average score is 61. Colorado had 12,320 (of 206,583) rated homes last year, with an average score of 55. Remember that lower is better when talking about HERS Ratings. Our average HERS Rating score in the Roaring Fork Valley over the past seven years is a 56. So Colorado is better than average nation wide, but the Roaring Fork Valley is behind the state average. Summary of HERS data below…

Number of Ratings in 2016Average HERS Index in 2016
Alabama1,74571
Alaska*42555
Arizona12,52263
Arkansas71472
California**1,15668
Colorado12,32055
Connecticut1,23653
Delaware2,06753
District of Columbia33759
Florida12,48458
Georgia8,82070
Hawaii3145
Idaho1,64960
Illinois3,36160
Indiana8,95165
Iowa5,03256
Kansas1,28969
Kentucky2,00965
Louisiana31474
Maine11326
Maryland6,51355
Massachusetts7,46655
Michigan2,94457
Minnesota6,49451
Mississippi2565
Missouri62568
Montana11549
Nebraska1,24952
Nevada4,96662
New Hampshire59161
New Jersey3,70461
New Mexico1,14856
New York3,64053
North Carolina13,39766
North Dakota2158
Ohio6,59560
Oklahoma4,01961
Oregon33056
Pennsylvania3,57961
Rhode Island33462
South Carolina7,74068
South Dakota21953
Tennessee1,10667
Texas40,01264
Utah1,52262
Vermont38847
Virginia7,23563
Washington1,31656
West Virginia12667
Wisconsin2,52652
Wyoming6358

 

Below is a letter sent to the Aspen City Council…

Aspen City Council members,

I intended to speak at the meeting of January 10th but was misinformed about the time and therefore arrived too late. My intention was to recommend denial of the proposed adoption of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code as amended by the Community Development Department. My preference would be to see the document adopted as written.

My firm, Confluence, has been providing architectural services in the valley for nearly seventeen years. In 2010 the firm began offering energy code compliance services; energy modeling and building testing.

Aspen has adopted a heavily modified version of the code. One that deletes some important tenets of this latest version of the International Building Code. For instance, the requirement for mandatory air infiltration testing has been removed. My professional opinion is that these tests are a valuable check on the condition of the barrier between outside and inside. The data the we have compiled from our work in the valley shows that only about half of that new construction would have passed the 2015 code limits. Research shows us that air sealing is the single least expensive way to reduce the energy consumption of a building.

Aspen’s Climate Action Plan says the community has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Approximately 32% of Aspen’s emissions come from buildings. If the City were serious about making those goals, then why relax energy conservation building codes at all? Why would the City lowering the bar instead of ensuring that new construction complies with the same code that Pitkin County, the Town of Snowmass Village and Eagle County have adopted?

To me it sounds hypocritical for, Aspen, the home of CORE, the Canary Initiative, Z Green and AREday, not to be doing everything possible to make sure their new construction meets contemporary minimum construction standards.

Final point, it negates the benefits of having an International code system if every jurisdiction completely rewrites the content. It leads to increased confusion, time, money, and potential for mistakes. Why not standardize?

Mark McLain,

Architect & Sustainability Consultant