Rebuilding Missouri Through Energy-Efficient Building
By John Hickey
Missouri Chapter Director for the Sierra Club
As the weather turns cold, we know the holidays are coming, which is good news.
The bad news is that Missouri households will see their monthly heating bills
rise. No big surprise, right? Well, not so fast.
This time, the bad news first: The American Council for an Energy Efficient
Economy (ACEEE) just named Missouri the 44th-worst state in energy efficiency.
That means Missourians are paying hundreds of dollars a year more for utility
It also means we are generating more pollution, as we burn more natural gas or
propane to heat our homes. If you heat your home with electricity, keep in mind
that more than 80 percent of the electricity in our state is generated by
burning coal – so higher energy usage means more soot, more mercury and more
sulfur dioxide being released into our air and inhaled into the lungs of our
children and neighbors.
Now, the good news: The International Code Council (ICC) recently approved a
much stronger model energy-efficiency code for residential buildings. This code,
the 2012 IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) is 30 percent more energy
efficient than the 2006 version now in use in many areas in Missouri, including
Kansas City, Independence and Springfield.
The ICC updates its recommended building codes every three years. Each year, the
residential energy efficiency component gets more effective. So, the 2009 IECC ,
while not as efficient as the 2012 version, still provides a 15 percent
improvement over the 2006 version. Jurisdictions that already have adopted the
2009 IECC code include O’Fallon, St. Louis, Jackson County and Marshall.
In Missouri, building codes are set by city or county governments. Now, those
jurisdictions can adopt this new model building code. This would provide a
double benefit, including:
1) Cleaner Air – buildings consume about 75 percent of the electricity generated
in the U.S., and produce about 40 percent of the total emitted greenhouse gases.
More efficient buildings means less dirty coal being burned, and less mercury,
soot and carbon dioxide in the air.
2) Lower Utility bills – by reducing energy use by 30 percent, building codes
will drastically reduce monthly utility bills being paid by Missouri consumers.
Incorporating efficiency measures when a house is being built is much more
effective than retrofitting it after it is constructed. According to research by
the Building Codes Assistance Project, new homes built in Missouri to the IECC
2009 efficiency codes will generate enough utility-bill savings in 14 months to
pay for the additional front-end home-building costs. After that, all the
utility savings are gravy.
On the other hand, when I recently improved my old house (built in 1915) with
efficiency measures such as a high-efficiency furnace, increased attic
insulation and a programmable thermostat, I calculated that it will take seven
years for my lower utility bills to pay for that investment. The lesson: Let’s
implement energy-efficient building codes now.
How? Engaged citizens can make a difference. Find out what building codes are in
effect in your city or county. If the residential energy efficiency codes are
out of date, talk to your building code officials about the benefits of updating
those codes to the 2009 or 2012 IECC level.
Does that sound like a lot to do on your own? If so, you can participate in the
Missouri Sierra Club’s campaign to educate building codes officials and
consumers on why energy efficient building codes are an important policy for
Missouri. We will be holding trainings across the state to give you the tools
that you need to make our state more energy efficient. Wouldn’t lower utility
bills and cleaner air be a great gift for the holidays?
This article was
published in the December 29, 2011 edition of the Richmond Daily News.