Resolving Federalism Issues Through Form Based Energy Codes

wrote last week about the proposed National Energy Efficiency Building codes contained in Section 201 of Waxman-Markey. 

Section 201 of the Waxman-Markey Act calls for the development and adoption by state and local governments of a national energy efficiency code. A summary of the main provisions are as follows:

1. Establishes a “national energy efficiency building code” for residential and commercial buildings, sufficient to meet each of the national building code energy efficiency targets.

2. Sets energy efficiency targets for the national building code: “on the date of enactment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, 30 percent reduction in energy use relative to a comparable building constructed in compliance with the baseline code…effective January 1, 2014, for residential buildings, and January 1, 2015, for commercial buildings, 50 percent reduction in energy use relative to the baseline code; and…January 1, 2017, for residential buildings, and January 1, 2018, for commercial buildings, and every 3 years thereafter, respectively, through January 1, 2029, and January 1, 2030, 5 percent additional reduction in energy use relative to the baseline code.”

3. If consensus based codes provides for greater reduction in energy use than is required under the ACESA, the overall percentage reduction in energy use provided by that successor code shall be the national building code energy efficiency target.

4. Requires that states and local governments comply with or exceed the national energy efficiency building code, and provides for enforcement mechanisms for states which are out of compliance.

The federalism issue looms lage with this provision of Waxman-Markey.  Building codes have historically been a state and local concern, not a national one. Advocates of state and local governance are already objecting  to this proposed transfer of authority.  On the other hand, state and local governments have failed to maintain current building and energy codes, in some cases imposing no building codes whatsoever. How to resolve this situation? 

 The answer, I believe, is form based energy codes. Form-based zoning codes:

are keyed to a regulating plan that designates the appropriate form and scale (and therefore, character) of development rather than only distinctions in land-use types.

By analogy, the Senate version of Waxman-Markey could maintain the targets for energy efficiency of building codes, and allow states and local governments to meet them through any means that fits the state and local needs.  This allows for continuing control of building codes at the state and local level, but mandates that state and local governments must have updated codes.    

Trackbacks (0) Links to blogs that reference this article Trackback URL
Comments (0) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end