Sunday, November 29, 2020

Mayor Cooper Celebrates Passage of Green Legislation. Hyping a routine overdue required update.

Ordinance is simply a mandated update, no big deal.

by Rod Williams - Before any one pops a champagne cork or, on the other hand, criticizes the mayor for giving in to environmentalist at a time when we are broke and can ill afford it, the truth is this is no big deal.  First look at the press release.  One would think we had done something revolutionary and important.  Here is the press release: 
Metro Press release, 11-6/2020 - Mayor John Cooper today signed an ordinance that moves Nashville a decade ahead in sustainability. 

 Legislation advanced by Mayor Cooper’s administration (BL2020-458) substantially updates Metro’s building codes and energy standards, which previously relied on 2012 model codes with guidelines dating as far back as 2009. The new upgrades significantly improve energy efficiency while reducing the environmental impact of building design and construction and strengthen home construction requirements for tornado resistance. 

 “Our homes – just like Nashville itself – require investments and modernized standards to operate more efficiently and more cost-effectively,” Mayor Cooper said. “When those improvements not only lower home energy costs, but also reduce the city’s carbon footprint and further protect homeowners, it makes even more sense to adopt them.” \

Mayor Cooper thanked local construction, home efficiency, architecture and design professionals, as well as members of the Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, who worked to support the ordinance. 

 He also recognized Metro Council co-sponsors Colby Sledge, Tom Cash, Brett Withers, Freddie O’Connell, Kathleen Murphy, Ginny Welsch, Burkley Allen, Sean Parker, and Emily Benedict. Tonya Hancock, Brandon Taylor, Angie Henderson, Delishia Porterfield, Erin Evans, and Zulfat Suara. 

 Mayor Cooper’s building codes upgrades include three key benefits: 

Reduce Energy Consumption and Save Homeowners 
Money Tennessee’s energy production costs are among the nation’s lowest, yet average residential electric bills in Tennessee are higher than most - the result of poor energy use and insulation standards. Furthermore, lower-income residents are more vulnerable to higher utility costs that result from inefficient building standards. Mayor Cooper’s measure is designed to reduce energy use by up to 30 percent, providing net lifetime savings of $8,034 for every single-family dwelling unit, according to analysis by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. 
Attract Investment 
As cities compete for businesses that set their own carbon reduction goals, the adoption of energy-efficient building codes has emerged as a key technique for attracting industry, according to Michael P. Vandenbergh, Professor and Co-Director of the Energy, Environment and Land Use Program at Vanderbilt University Law School and a recent appointee to Nashville’s Electric Power Board. 
Make Homes and Buildings Safer 
Mayor Cooper’s measure also raises the threshold for tornado and high-wind resistance from 90 miles per hour to 115. Today was another step in Mayor Cooper’s efforts to create a healthier, more sustainable Nashville. His sustainability advisory committee, formed in 2019, continues to work on broad recommendations.
I don't want to make too much out of nothing but calling this "Mayor Cooper's measure," and  acting as if this is some big Green breakthrough is disingenuous. Look at what the staff analysis says about the bill. The highlighting is mine. 
An ordinance amending Title 16 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws to adopt updated building codes.
This ordinance adopts a more recent edition of several standard building and fire codes. Copies of the new editions of the standard codes are on file with the Codes Department. Metro is required by state law to keep our codes current within seven years of the latest published edition of the model codes.

Metro is currently operating under the 2012 edition of the fire, life safety, building, residential, gas/mechanical, and plumbing codes, and the 2008 version of the energy code. The various building and fire codes are typically adopted at the same time to avoid conflicts between the codes. The Codes Department has notified the various construction trade associations of Metro's intention to adopt the 2018 codes. The adoption of the 2018 codes has been discussed at multiple stakeholder meetings over the last two years. Nashville’s building code standards are based upon the International Building Code (IBC), the International Residential Code (IRC), and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), each of which are updated on a periodic basis. 

Although these model codes have been upgraded several times in the past decade, the Council Office has been advised that Nashville’s residential building code still adheres to certain 2009 standards, specifically as it relates to insulation requirements. The current ordinance proposes adoption of the 2018 editions of the IBC, IRC, and IECC, which are estimated to require 30% less energy use compared to 2009 standards. An analysis prepared by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that upgrading Nashville’s current residential energy code to the 2018 IECC standards will provide a net life-cycle cost benefit of $8,034 per single-family dwelling unit. 

Metro typically also adopts some amendments to the standard codes that are local in nature, which are included as part of this ordinance. The local amendments are basically in keeping with prior code adoptions to make the code consistent with state law and Metro's appeal processes.
There you have it. If I served in the Council I would have voted in favor of this routine action, but if one wanted to advocate for housing affordability one could issue a press release titled, "City passes new code putting affordable housing out of reach of many."  That would be as honest as the way this is hyped. 

Any measure that increases the cost of housing puts housing that much further out of reach of low income people.  The benefit of the new code may certainly be worth the cost of reducing housing affordability but the fact is worth recognizing.  Many actions governments take have pros and cons, and while this routine update of the code may be of environmental benefit, it is undeniable that it will somewhat increase housing cost and that will push the cost of housing further out of reach of some.  

My point in this is not to say that passing this code was the wrong thing to do but to point out the opportunistic taking credit by the mayor of what was a routine government action, required by state law. 

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1 comment:

  1. It's Carbon Dioxide, not Carbon. Thereby proving he doesn't know what he's talking about. - Robert Rucker