WHEN builders begin construction on new housing and commercial projects in the San Luis Valley, they will be required to meet new energy conservation requirements established under state law in 2022.
A cohort of cities and counties across the San Luis Valley are moving to adopt a set of uniformed building codes to meet state law requirements under Colorado House Bill 22-1362. The Valley communities aren’t going all the way and adopting the new Colorado Energy Code, but instead will adopt and enforce the state energy codes from 2018, which they are allowed to do under the new law.
The 2018 code isn’t as strict as the 2021 code and not as strict as what the state code will end up being, said Alamosa County Planning Director Richard Hubler in remarks to county commissioners.
The Valley communities moving to adopt the 2018 standards are Alamosa, Rio Grande, Conejos, Saguache, and Costilla counties, and the cities of Alamosa, Monte Vista, La Jara, Center, Saguache, Del Norte and South Fork.
The thought among county and city planners is, “Let’s do a consistent adoption across the board on all the relevant inter-related codes for the same year. So that’s why this code adoption process centers around that energy code piece and including all of the relevant codes as well,” Hubler said.
County and municipal governments need to adopt updated codes by July 1 to be in state compliance. They are acting in unison so contractors and property owners have a set of uniform building codes that are consistent across the Valley.
The Valley cohort will phase in updated codes to allow for training and familiarity of the enhanced energy codes before enforcement occurs. The first phase, from July 1, 2023, to July 1, 2024, will emphasize getting houses better built, getting hands-on with inspectors and creating training to help contractors and planners understand how to work with the 2018 code book and what additional changes are in store for future years.
FREE IECC TRAINING
DATE: Monday, April 10
WHERE: Alamosa County Building, 8900-A Independence Way, Alamosa
Session 1: 7-10 a.m.
Session 2: 2-5 p.m.
DATE: Wednesday, April 12
WHERE: Rio Grande County Annex Building, 935 6th St., Del Norte
Session 1: 7-10 a.m.
Session 2: 2-5 p.m.
Walk-ins are welcome, but pre-registration is preferred.
Email Hope Medina at email@example.com
Hybrid sessions offered. Register HERE.
“This plan allows us to step into some of the requirements gradually and build up the capacity of both our builders and contractors in the area,” Hubler said.
The phased-in implementation, said Hubler, “allows us to adopt requirements this year but enforce the requirements over time.”
Counties and cities in the Valley are all using different years in their current code standards. For example, Alamosa County is currently enforcing 2009 and 2012 codes, while Rio Grande County is on 2006 codes.
“Saguache County doesn’t have adopted building codes, nor does Costilla or Conejos County,” Hubler said. “The town of La Jara does. But the town of Antonito I believe does not. I don’t think anybody in Costilla County, none of the municipalities have adopted building codes.”
Hubler also said the building codes are flexible to account for the differences between the rural and urban parts of the state.
“There is a very clear difference between what’s available here in rural Colorado versus urban Colorado. Some of the pieces that work really great in Denver metro don’t work at all here and so the code has always been accommodating of that,” he said.
“There’s a lot of flexibility on the code, but certainly from Colorado’s perspective they’re trying to align a lot of their regulations, approaches, programs around a consistent vision for decarbonization.
“So certainly the electric piece is a piece of that, which is beneficial to us if we can get them to help us with the transmission bit because we do a lot more electric generation down here for those guys up in the metro.”
Here’s more of a Q&A that Hubler provided to Alamosa County Commissioners and some of the questions and answers between Hubler and the commissioners:
What Codes will be adopted?
- 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)
- 2018 International Building Code (IBC)
- 2018 International Residential Code (IRC)
- 2018 International Mechanical Code (IMC)
- 2018 International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC)
- 2018 International Existing Building Code (IEBC)
What is the San Luis Valley Cohort for 2018 code adoption?
- The SLV Cohort includes both counties (Alamosa, Rio Grande, Conejos, Saguache, and Costilla) and municipalities (Alamosa, Monte Vista, La Jara Center, Saguache, Del Norte, South Fork).
- The cohort represents entities with the authority to adopt and enforce building codes and which have a vested interest in creating uniformity and consistency in regulations for contractors, property owners, and other stakeholders throughout the SLV.
- The cohort approach includes adoption this spring of a consistent set of codes, amendments, and an implementation timeline.
- Technical support for the cohort is provided by Hope Medina with Shums Coda Associates, a building code expert funded by Xcel Energy to support energy conservation and efficiency.
Why is a code update necessary this year?
- Colorado House Bill 22-1362 requires cities and counties that have building and energy codes to adopt the new Colorado Energy Code, effective July 1, 2023, unless they are already enforcing one of the most recent energy codes: 2015, 2018, or 2021.
- The Colorado Energy Code is currently being developed, but is expected to be generally consistent with the 2021 IECC with provisions for solar-ready, EV-ready, and all electric-ready.
- The SLV Cohort’s approach to adopt the 2018 IECC prior to July 1, 2023, allows us to adjust to a modern energy code that increases the energy efficiency of new construction while maintaining local control of regulations and implementations.
- Updating the IECC to 2018 means that now is the best time to consider related codes for residential and commercial construction and existing buildings.
What are the major implications or changes with the 2018 ICC code adoptions?
- An overall increase in the application of energy conservation technology, building “tightness” and increased performance of mechanical and HVAC systems.
- Direct guidance and regulations for existing buildings to allow for existing conditions and support building maintenance.
Would this eliminate wood-burning stoves?
“Alamosa County for a long time has required that you’ve got a consistently available heat source that could do a Delta T or a change in temperature differential of 88 degrees. So in other words, you can maintain your house at 68 degrees when it’s minus 20 out. That makes sense, because we get those kinds of things periodically.
“So wood burning stoves are not a controlled heat source. A pellet stove could be because they’re programmable and they can provide consistent heat, and electric and gas furnaces are. So we have always for a number of years required that even if you have a wood stove, that there’s something else in there even if you don’t turn it on.
“So this doesn’t change that piece, necessarily. There’s separate regulations that we may or may not have to deal with in the future from the state on wood stoves and EPA requirements and particulate emissions and that kind of stuff, but that’s not part of this piece.”
Would propane tanks still be allowed on new construction?
“We would still be able to do propane because we don’t have central gas lines (in Alamosa County). The idea is that most things are going to an electric-ready (standard) and the state is certainly going to be electric-ready on their code. Which means while you got a propane tank and you propose to use gas or propane, for your HVAC system or your stove, you also have to wire in the necessary circuitry in the building process for that to be electric in the future. So it doesn’t prohibit one but it requires inclusion on the other.”
Alamosa Citizen members get the Monday Briefing sent directly to their In boxes – plus a weekly newsletter on Thursdays that summarizes the top stories in the Valley. Member support keeps The Citizen free for all to read.