That's because the code change would not only significantly increase the energy efficiency of homes, it would give builders a lot more flexibility in how they do it.
Rather than having to implement a prescriptive laundry list of efficiency measures, meeting the efficiency code would be based on a home energy performance target using an existing rating system, such as the popular Home Energy Rating System (HERS).
Builders would pick efficiency measures that make the most sense for a specific home - those that cost the least and perform the best. That would create competition among suppliers to provide products that save the most energy at the lowest cost - the same kind of continual improvement we see in smart phones and computers, notes
This added flexibility helps everyone by creating competition in the energy efficiency suppliers' industries as to who can save the most energy for the lowest cost. This leads to the kind of continual improvement we see in smart phones or computers, notes Goldstein. It would lead to new businesses, better products, more jobs and more energy savings, he says.
These seemingly small changes would result in 20% lower energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions compared to current code and 40% compared to 2006 code. Nationally, it would save over $100 billion by 2030 compared to the 2006 code, according to NRDC, while eliminating the emissions of about 158 coal plants.
To reach these savings, home buyers would pay a bit more but the payback period would be just over six months, estimates NRDC. That's based on today's cost of efficient construction, but more competition for energy efficient components would drive those costs down.
The 2015 code would be part of the International Energy Conservation Code, which is developed by the nonprofit International Code Council (ICC), and voluntarily adopted by states and cities across the US. The first national green building code passed in 2011.
20 of the largest home builders, represented by the organization, Leading Builders of America, are working with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) on the code change.
Basically, the change would move the industry to whole house performance-based code, instead of continually adding more efficiency products that are resisted by builders.
And home buyers will have third-party verification on the builder's projections of energy use.
Leading Builders of America is also working with NRDC and IMT to pass the SAVE Act, which would require lenders to consider savings on utility bills in mortgage applications.
Although lenders have yet to acknowledge it, the more efficient the house, the lower the mortgage default risk. Risk of default drops with each point on the HERS index.
Goldstein says you can help this way:
"Every local jurisdiction has code officials empowered to attend the International Codes Council's meeting in Atlantic City this October where the 2015 code will be considered.
Contact your mayor or city manager or county leadership and ask them to send representatives to the meeting and vote for our groundbreaking proposal -"proposal RE188-13, as amended by our jointly sponsored Public Comment".
For cities that are trying to be green and reduce utility bills for their citizens, and many of our most prominent municipalities are advertising themselves as the greenest in their region or even in the nation, supporting an advanced energy code is one of the most important actions they can take."