With 2012 standards coming up for a city council vote in August, Omaha still operates under the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). These energy codes are the minimum requirements for new or remodeled homes, adopted by every state and municipality as part of their building codes.

“The Omaha City Council will be reviewing the 2012 IECC for adoption as early as August 16 with an possible adoption date in early September 2013,” said Matt Kerns, Program Associate with the Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP).

“This code is 30 percent more efficient than the current Omaha code, which is currently under the 2006 IECC.”

Currently, residential buildings in Omaha fall under the 2006 IRC (International Residential Code), commercial buildings fall under the 2006 IBV (International Building Code), and the Energy Code is under the 2006 IECC. The 2006 amendments to the code were not proposed to the city council until April 2008. The Nebraska Energy Code was updated to the 2009 IECC Edition in August 2011. 

These codes are also part of the overall code that is adopted by the local or state government. According to the BCAP, most cities update their energy and building codes every three years. The City of Omaha has not updated in 7 years. 

“Sometimes, these adoptions take longer than they should because buyers assume that new homes and buildings are built to modern day standards,” said Kerns. “Frequently, they don’t realize the behind-the-scenes politics that determine whether or not an updated energy code gets adopted.”

Codes that are not updated frequently may miss new technological or construction methods, and can cost the city, and taxpayers, money in the long run.

“Omaha homeowners stand to benefit from the code update as it will save the hundreds of dollars every year in energy costs,” said Kerns. “The only possible downside is that the energy code adds to the upfront cost of building a new home. However, these upfront costs are recouped in a matter of months or years, as the money each month outweighs any additional cost to a mortgage.”

The 2012 IECC does have some stipulations for what is defined in the code improvements. “The energy code does not apply to plug loads like appliances or electronic devices. Instead, it applies to things like heating/cooling, windows/doors, insulation, HVAC equipment, lighting, and water heating,” said Kerns. “Some of the biggest changes in the 2012 IECC include improved air sealing provisions – (blower door test) and tightness testing required for air duct systems. Also, there are significant improvements in lighting, heating and cooling, and water heating. Other changes include improvements in insulation levels and window requirements.”

The BCAP recently conducted a survey in Omaha for a summer awareness campaign, in an attempt to measure public response to energy efficiency. The results were surprising. According to the survey results, 67.9 percent of respondents were willing to pay 2-3 percent more for an energy efficient home with set monthly bills. 

Energy aware homes are important for cost efficiency. The average home in the United States spends nearly $2,200 per year on utility bills. Energy efficient homes save homeowners money, improve construction plans, reduce emissions and can improve air quality.

“All of the improvements incorporated into the 2012 IECC will result in lower energy bills for consumers, reduced demand on our power grid, and decreased carbon pollution from our buildings,” said Kerns.

The city council will review the updated IECC over three meetings, with a discussion open for public comment. This meeting is an opportunity to get involved on the final vote. “The members need to hear from the public in order to make their decision,” said Kerns.

The BCAP has created an educational page on their website for Omaha residents to find out more about energy efficiency, the 2012 IECC, and how to get in touch with their city council representative.

“Some homeowners assume ‘if it’s a new home, it must be energy efficient’, and they are typically not involved in this issue enough to know that they need to voice their opinion with a city council to support the adoption of more modern energy codes. However, as our survey showed, Omaha consumers want energy codes. Now is the time to let their voices be heard.”

To find out more about the BCAP survey, and how to get in touch with your City Council representative, visit energycodesocean.org/city/omaha. 

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