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New Washington building energy standards delayed

Tue., June 22, 2010, 1:39 p.m.

SEATTLE — Washington state’s new energy efficiency building standards were set to begin July 1 but have been delayed by three months, possibly longer.

Gov. Chris Gregoire had asked the State Building Code Council this month for a nine-month delay. She said it was needed to help the construction industry stabilize.

Responding to the governor’s request, the council delayed the new building energy code by three months and will consider this fall whether a delay of nine months is needed after holding public hearings.

The standards require builders to choose from among several measures to make homes environmentally friendly, such as by using high-efficiency furnaces or efficient insulation and windows.

“The focus is on increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy use,” the Council’s managing director Tim Nogler said.

Gregoire wrote in a letter to the Council’s chairman, John Cochran, that “I do not like having to make this request” for the delay.

It’s clear that such improvements would be offset in future energy savings, Gregoire wrote, but the recovery of the construction industry is central to the recovery of the state’s economy. “We cannot risk further delay of our state recovery,” she said.

The news was first reported by the website PubliCola.

John Healy, a spokesman with the NW Energy Coalition, said he was disappointed.

“It creates a false choice between saving energy and economic growth,” he said. “The code is going to save consumers money on their monthly energy bills.”

The Building Industry Association of Washington, which has sued the state over the standards, was glad for the delay.

In May, BIAW sued in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, saying the standards exceed federal requirements and would add as much as $15,000 to the price of a single-family home.

“The delay at least doesn’t hammer our guys at time when they really can’t afford it,” said BIAW spokeswoman Erin Shannon. “We’re still opposed to these rules. We think they’re overly restrictive and very costly and will make homes even more unaffordable.”

In 2009, Gregoire asked the state building code council to improve building efficiency by 30 percent beyond the 2006 standards.

Last fall, the council adopted new standards that would reduce overall energy use by 15 to 18 percent for new commercial and residential construction, Nogler said.

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