We can’t overemphasize the importance of building codes. This dense and complicated set of guidelines on mundane things like insulation and glazing requirements isn’t fun leisure reading. But they are one of the most important tools local governments have to reduce energy use in homes and businesses — and to take action on climate.

With the goal of creating homes that use less fossil fuels while improving the comfort and well-being of inhabitants, CORE contracted with two sustainable building specialists – Jeff Dickinson with Biospaces Inc., and Amanda Poindexter with Full Circle Construction – to help the Town of Basalt.

Dickinson, Poindexter and the rest of the Basalt code task force rolled up their sleeves and got to work on updating their Sustainable Building Regulations (SBR), a green code addendum that holistically reduces the carbon footprint of buildings. A year of hard work later (June 2018), Basalt Town Council unanimously adopted the new SBR, putting Basalt on a path towards achieving their climate action goals.

Susan Philp, Town of Basalt (left) and Amanda Poindexter, Full Circle Construction (right) are using building codes to create a more sustainable world

Action on climate = green building

Basalt’s green code, the SBR, has been in place since 2009. Last year, when they made the jump from the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) to the 2015 version, they knew they had to kick it up a notch with their SBR too.

Together, the 2015 IECC and new SBR go a long way towards reducing emissions: according to a report by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a home built to Basalt’s current energy code (IECC 2015) uses 33% less energy than the standard home constructed to the 2009 energy code. This puts a dent in Basalt’s greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it’s buildings.

How does SBR affect green building, anyway?

Building energy codes address how buildings use energy. This focus on energy is essential, but there are other considerations to drive low impact building.

That’s where the green code comes in. It complements existing code by introducing a whole system approach to addressing a building’s sustainability and goes beyond what’s included in traditional construction code. Green codes integrate elements around water conservation, recycling and reuse of construction materials, connectivity to public transit, how to position a home to maximize solar gain, and more.

Highlights of Basalt’s new SBR include:

  • Flexibility: a checklist of numerous options to get green building points and performance-based pathways (like HERS) to encourage building professionals to get creative
  • Permit discounts: LEED and Zero Energy Ready Homes qualify for a discount of up to $5,000
  • Building education and trainings: contractors are required to get continuing education credits to stay up-to-date in green building*

Chart the course for net zero buildings

The updated SBR is part of the steady drive towards greener buildings and the national momentum towards net zero energy use. CORE’s Program Director, Marty Treadway recognizes this progress: “ultimately the goal is that all of our buildings produce as much energy as they consume over the course of a year. Basalt has taken an important step toward that goal by adopting their new SBRs.” Energy codes and green codes can help net zero buildings become the standard approach.

Learn more about Basalt’s Sustainable Building Regulations at one of the two upcoming FREE information sessions on July 25 from 11:30 to 12:30 and on August 6 from 5:30 to 6:30 at the Town of Basalt.

* Keep an eye on CORE’s Green Events calendar for opportunities to beef up your energy knowledge