Newly-adopted building codes could be devastating to jobs, unaffordable to potential home buyers, says Kristiansen

State Building Code Council moves forward with new rules, ignores concerns


The Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) has adopted new heavily-restrictive energy building codes, despite concerns raised by lawmakers that the restrictions could destroy jobs and add as much as 20 percent to the cost of new homes.

Rep. Dan Kristiansen, a former small business owner in the construction industry, says the decision comes at the worst possible time for builders and for consumers seeking to purchase a new home.

“It’s been estimated that more than 15,000 employers will be potentially impacted by these new rules. The construction industry has lost nearly 48,000 jobs since 2007, and now these new regulations could put a damper on future construction and make it much more difficult for people to afford a new home,” said Kristiansen, R-Snohomish. “This will serve to do nothing more than prolong an already serious recession.”

Kristiansen said the package of nearly 90 amendments to the state’s building code go well beyond the intent of the Legislature when it passed Senate Bill 5854 earlier this year. That legislation sought to incrementally increase energy efficiency codes for buildings beginning in 2013, with the goal of a 70 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2031. The new regulations adopted Friday by the SBCC, were requested by the governor, and rapidly accelerate the timeline to require a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption for buildings by July 2010.

“Certainly home energy efficiency is a laudable goal. However, that deadline is only eight months from now. Everyone in the building industry who I’ve talked with has told me it is impossible for them to achieve such an aggressive goal within such a short period,” noted Kristiansen. “The Legislature had recognized the economic hardships of changing the energy codes and that’s why the bill it passed earlier this year would have incrementally increased the requirements over an 18-year period.”

A report by Adair Homes, a leading home construction firm in Washington, shows the new code changes could add as much as $24,000 to a new 1,200 square foot single-story home.

“I find it ironic at a time when the federal government has extended the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit and is allowing a $6,000 tax credit for other home purchasers, these new state regulations will more than evaporate those savings. It will once again put the price of ownership out of the reach for many who could have had a chance to afford a home. When people aren’t buying homes, builders aren’t building them, and that means fewer jobs,” added Kristiansen.

“Just today, the governor was saying if she has to make significant cuts to the state budget, people could go homeless. And yet, she’s willing to add significant prices to new housing, making it difficult for people to afford a home,” said Kristiansen. “Make no mistake, this doesn’t only affect new home buyers. It also could potentially increase the price of newly-constructed rental units as landlords pass on the costs to their tenants.”

Concerns over potential impacts to jobs and the economy prompted a rare meeting in October of the Legislature’s Joint Administrative Rules and Review Committee (JARCC). Kristiansen, who serves as a JARCC member, expressed concern that the SBCC did not know the number of jobs created or lost if the new regulations were adopted. As a result, JARCC asked the council to provide a cost-benefit analysis that included specific details of costs and impacts to jobs. Kristiansen said he was extremely disappointed with the council’s follow-up report.

“The council completely failed to address our concerns. The analysis we were issued primarily addressed, from the standpoint of code proponents, energy savings benefits. We had asked for a rigorous and accurate estimate of how these codes would affect jobs and employers. Nowhere in the 30-page report was this addressed,” said Kristiansen.

Kristiansen said JARCC is considering holding another meeting to discuss SBCC’s failure to address the jobs issue. That meeting could come as soon as next week when lawmakers arrive in Olympia for the Legislature’s interim committee assembly days.

“I think the council has a lot of explaining to do. We plan to hold their feet to the fire on this very serious issue and, if necessary, take it up during the legislative session which convenes in January,” concluded Kristiansen.

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Washington State House Republican Communications