North Carolina panel moves to weaken building energy conservation rules

Published by Energy News Network: A change to North Carolina’s building code would let developers skimp on insulation and other energy-saving basics in exchange for flashier elements such as solar panels and super-efficient appliances. It highlights the role developers are playing nationwide in stopping efforts to improve building energy efficiency, just as climate scientists say we should be doing the opposite.

“Net-zero” buildings are widely regarded as the solution. “It’s a super-efficient building that produces all of its own energy,” said Kim Cheslak, director of codes for the New Buildings Institute, a nationwide nonprofit striving for zero-carbon buildings.

Advocates are pushing for all buildings to become net-zero by 2050, and all new construction to meet that threshold by 2030. But every single structure doesn’t necessarily need its own solar panel or wind turbine, said Cheslak. “What we do desperately need,” she said, “is buildings that do all of the efficiency measures that net-zero buildings do.” Those measures include lighting, air conditioners and other appliances that use minimal amounts of energy. But they also include windows, insulation, and air seals — the key components of a building’s envelope — which maintain a comfortable, healthy indoor environment no matter what it’s like outside.

“When people hear energy efficiency, they think of setting your thermostat low, wearing an extra sweater. That is not what I’m selling,” said Cheslak, who’s based in Portland, Maine. “I am, in fact, attempting to sell a home that if you live in Maine and your power goes out for 72 hours, the interior temperature will not dip below 60 degrees.”

Read More