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Washington Builders Challenge Green Building Code

Lawyers for the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) have filed a federal court lawsuit in Seattle challenging the state's recently adopted green building code that is set to take effect July 1.

BIAW contends the new energy code requires builders to install HVAC and plumbing equipment with energy efficiency standards that are higher than the standards set by the federal government. Federal law explicitly prohibits states and local governments from setting more stringent rules.

"In the 1970s, Congress adopted a federal law that says energy efficiency and energy use standards for certain HVAC equipment is governed (“pre-empted”) by federal law, not state and local laws. Congress took this action to avoid the mechanical systems industry from having to comply with conflicting state standards for their equipment," said the BIAW in a statement posted on their website. "This law has recently been put to the test in a federal court case involving energy code improvements approved by the City of Albuquerque, where the judge issued an injunction stopping the city from moving forward with proposed changes."
The BIAW is also concerned about the increased cost associated with complying with the new codes, saying it could increase the cost of a new home by $10,000 or more. The Washington State Building Code Council says the cost would be much less, more in the range of $4,000, which would be recouped over time due to lower energy bills.

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire has sided with BIAW, at least with their concerns about higher costs. In a letter to the Washington State Building Code Council, she has asked that the new energy code be deferred till April 2011. While she does agree with the codes intent, they could have a negative impact on the recovery of the construction market.

"I believe a temporary delay is necessary to allow the construction industry to stabilize. We cannot risk further delay of our state recovery, or worse, a deepening recession," said Gregoire in the letter. " The needs of our families and communities for jobs, and a healthy economy, must take precedent."

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