Home Builders Blocked Regulations That Would Have Made Houses More Climate Ready

Photo: Tony Dejak, AP

A New York Times investigation published last weekend found that the National Association of Home Builders was able to prevent changes to “model” building codes that would have made new houses in much of the country more energy-efficient or more resilient to floods, hurricanes, and other disasters.  According to the Times, the Home Builders — which represents 140,000 builders, suppliers and others in the industry — signed a “secret agreement” with the International Code Council that gave them the right to select four of the eleven voting members of (and thus essentially control) the committee responsible for the International Residential Code, which most state and local governments use to regulate home construction.

Why This Matters:  The Homebuilders seem to believe that building climate resilience and energy efficiency into homes is extravagant and will price people out of new homes.  These climate requirements generally pay for themselves over time in energy savings and lower insurance costs.  Before the Homebuilders had seats on the committee that handles energy, the energy efficiency requirements of those building codes increased 32 percent over six years, according to a federal analysis. But after the industry members joined the codes committees, that number was less than 3 percent over the same amount of time.  Building homes that won’t last is very short-sighted and just another form of climate denial.

What The Homebuilders Are Opposing Even Today

The Committee that updates building codes for new homes is meeting this week in Las Vegas.

  • The homebuilders are planning to vote against changes such as requiring better insulation in attics and air ducts, as well as requiring new houses to be equipped with the circuitry required to install a plug for an electric vehicle — potentially making it easier for homeowners to switch to electric cars in the future.
  • In the past, the Homebuilders have stopped proposals it did not support including those mandating tougher foundations in flood-prone areas or ensuring that roofs were less likely to blow off during a hurricane.

What Do Consumer Advocates Want

With impending climate change, consumer advocates argue that setting the standards with climate change in mind is a decision that will be benefit future generations who will face more powerful storms and a higher risk of damage to property.

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