State approves energy-saving building codes

By Tammy Fiebelkorn, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project

We can all breath a bit easier now, because New Mexico has finally updated its Energy Conservation Code. This brings New Mexico up to date with its energy code for new buildings, reducing energy use in new residential and commercial buildings by about 25 percent.Updating our energy code is one of the most important and effective things New Mexico can do to reduce its climate impact from the building sector.

“We applaud the Construction Industries Commission for taking this long-overdue step to make New Mexico’s buildings more energy-efficient, reducing emissions from wasted energy and saving consumers money. New Mexico is taking serious steps to address our state’s climate emissions, and we all benefit,” said John Ammondson of Environment New Mexico.

Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s January 2019 Climate Executive Order set in motion a long-overdue update process. The state was using the 2009 version of the code before this update. Under Gov. Susana Martinez, New Mexico missed three code updates, leaving us far behind on technology, energy-cost savings, and building performance.

The new code is cost-effective for New Mexico, as proven by studies completed by Pacific Northwest National Labs for both the residential and commercial codes. In fact, the studies found that the average lifecycle cost savings for a new residential dwelling in New Mexico is $6,397.

Given the large number of low-income residents in the state, this savings will be a welcome relief for those with high energy burdens. New homes built under this code will save about 22 percent more energy than those built under the old code, and “the associated cost savings allow New Mexicans to cover other essential commodities that they are now doing without,” said Ona Porter of Prosperity Works.

New commercial buildings will use about 27 percent less energy, which will be extremely helpful as businesses rebound from COVID-19 shutdowns. Less money spent on operating buildings will leave more funds for employee salaries and benefits, as well as reinvesting into the business.

“The fastest and cheapest way to cut global warming emissions is to burn less fossil fuel to heat, cool, and power our lives. Buildings, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, account for 19 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Congratulations to the New Mexico CIC for this decision. Your children will thank you,” said Tom Solomon and Jim Mackenzie, co-coordinators of 350 New Mexico.

The City of Albuquerque has also passed its own Energy Conservation Code, which is even more energy-efficient than the state’s code.  The City’s code will be implemented on the same timeline as the state code, with a grace period ending in Spring 2021. Many thanks to Councilor Ike Benton for his 2-plus years work to get this new code for Albuquerque residents!

Along with the new Energy Conservation Code to benefit the owners of new buildings, the City of Albuquerque City Council has also directed $100,000 to assist with efficiency retrofits for low-income residents. These funds will assist low-income families with much-needed upgrades to their homes to save money, energy and fight climate change.

State approves energy-saving building codes