Regulatory Rewards

Small government. Big government. Over-regulation. Race to the bottom. We frequently see these black-and-white characterizations of government regulation. Not just characterizations, but caricatures in some cases. We say, “Stifling!” “Handcuffs on business!” During 10 days of International Code Council hearings in Dallas Texas, last month, I witnessed why building energy codes generally are a win-win for manufacturers, for the construction industry and for consumers. Rather than resulting in a set of stifling or restricting requirements, what we have is a thoroughly public process of winnowing that allows modest and very practical measures in the end to be published in the model energy codes. Every three years, the International Energy Conservation Codes go through a process of proposal development, submittal, draft publication, testimony, formal public comments, and another set of public hearings with testimony, rebuttal, rerebuttal, etc .– all before going to a vote before all participating code and government officials across the United States. And only then, usually after a multi-year or decade-long interim period, are the energy codes adopted by individual states and cities. As a result, energy codes provide thoroughly vetted, consistent and technically valid signals to manufacturers of window, insulation, water heating systems, etc. far in advance on where the construction market is headed at the base level of energy savings. It also signals to utilities, voluntary programs like LEED, and jurisdictions where their interests can be met by going beyond code to get additional energy savings. Time and again, research shows that energy codes provide the most positive financial returns of any measure to reduce global emissions. (Mckinsey 2011) The regulatory certainty and the financial benefits of our nation’s energy codes are sometimes hidden – but they are very real.Jim Edelson is Senior Manager of Codes/Policy for NBI. He manages NBI’s efforts for local, state and federal improvements in commercial building energy efficiency standards.