Building industry group seeks pause on energy code requirements

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A group representing the Washington state building industry wants to see a pause on energy code requirements implemented earlier this year until April as a stressed supply chain further increases home prices.

On Aug. 26, the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) announced they were asking Gov. Jay Inslee to pause the new requirements laid out in the 2018 Washington State Energy Code, which went into effect Feb. 1. Since the implementation, construction costs have increased on average between $15,000 to $20,000, the BIA stated, which in turn raises purchase prices for homebuyers.

Apart from added costs associated with the new requirements, a general supply chain disruption across multiple industries also hit the construction industry, delaying projects and further raising costs.

According to the BIAW, delays in HVAC components, energy-efficient windows and insulation are impacting builders, and in some cases, they aren’t even sure if they can receive components like electrical service panels as some manufacturers no longer provide delivery estimates.

BIAW President Tracy Doriot, owner of Clark County-based Doriot Construction, said insulators are running behind, which is further exacerbating the problem.

The code requirements were initially set to be implemented last year, though they were pushed back in the midst of the pandemic. The Washington State Building Code Council voted in January to extend the implementation to July, though Inslee repealed the extension, the BIAW stated.

Acknowledging the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Doriot asked Inslee to “take a serious look” at issues with the supply chain and its effect on housing costs.

“Homes are more important than ever,” Doriot said in a news release. “Providing relief from these changes will help stabilize the supply chain and save current homebuyers tens of thousands of dollars.”

The BIAW cited one residential contractor who said lead times for code-compliant heat pumps tripled to 90 days, and prices for windows that meet requirements are 40 to 50 percent higher. 

An average new home in Washington costs more than $522,000. Each $1,000 increase prices 2,500 families out of homes in the state, according to the BIAW. Clark County’s average home value was lower at $478,000, though it has increased more than 20 percent in the past year, according to Zillow.

BIAW Executive Vice President Greg Lane said a pause until April will benefit local governments dealing with revenue and staffing shortages, businesses in the residential homebuilding supply chain, and the statewide deficit in affordable housing.

“Granting this pause allows builders and industry leaders to make the necessary adjustments to their operations without hasty decision-making and less than thorough implementation, saving time and money,” Lane said in the release.

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