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Bill would advance energy conservation in building codes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia homebuilders might have to meet new conservation regulations if new legislation is passed.

Officials from the West Virginia Home Builders Association, the state Fire Marshal's Office, the Department of Energy and the state Insurance Commission this week drafted legislation to introduce to the Legislature in February that would require homebuilders to meet the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, said Dale Oxley, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Charleston.

Part of that legislation also would include an update to the code for fire protection.

State law requires homebuilders within enforcement areas to meet the 2004 guidelines for energy conservation and fire prevention, Oxley said Tuesday afternoon at a meeting of the South Charleston Economic Development Council.

"It's pretty normal for code enforcement to be behind," Oxley said. "Fortunately, with electrical code [and] plumbing code, we're at 2011,  . . .  so it's only building code that we're in fact behind the curve."

Last year, legislation was introduced to change the building code requirements to reflect 2009 energy conservation regulations, Oxley said. The Home Builders Association opposed that legislation, he said, because it included a requirement that all residential housing include sprinklers.

"The HBA is not against sprinklers," he said. "At the same time, it's got to be practical."

In some instances, sprinklers can make insurance rates increase, Oxley said. If a house has a small fire that is contained, a sprinkler can cause more damage to the house than would the fire, he said.

Too some degree, sprinklers systems are too expensive, as well, Oxley said.

Only areas in West Virginia that have code compliance are required to follow the building code, he said.

"We don't have total state compliance," Oxley said. "If you live outside the city of South Charleston but in the county, there's no code enforcement."

In fact, few counties and cities in West Virginia require compliance with the code, he said. The Home Builders Association is working to encourage more municipalities to require compliance with the state's building code, he said.

Oxley said that, if energy conservation efforts are done correctly, they don't cost much more than going without them.

"[They are] not revenue neutral to where it costs you nothing," Oxley said, "but inevitably, if you're going to live in your house over the term, you're going to save money. [Without them,] eventually, your $100 electric bill is going to be $275 because all your heating and cooling is escaping into the attic or the crawlspace or out the window."

Also at the South Charleston EDC meeting, Phil Halstead, executive director of the West Virginia Regional Technology Park, announced that construction would begno later than Feb. 1, 2013, on the renovation of Building 770 in the park. Officials also are working on a master plan for the future of the tech park, the details of which will be released early next year, Halstead said.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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