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September 16, 2014

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Las Vegas should stick with its energy code

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If ever there was a case to call a proposed ordinance a rotten apple, that case is at hand with one on Wednesday’s Las Vegas City Council agenda.

The proposed ordinance, CLV 2013-24, would roll back the city’s 2009 building energy codes for buildings constructed before 2009.

Unfortunately, implementing such a bill would bring many unintended consequences for the city, state, building industry and building department. State law requires municipalities to adopt the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, which prescribes requirements for energy efficiency for new buildings and for existing buildings when they are renovated. The city and surrounding communities adopted this code a few years ago. This building code prescribes requirements for energy efficiency for new buildings and for existing buildings when they are renovated.

The proposal somehow passed a City Council subcommittee on a 2-1 vote and now proceeds to the full City Council.

It has been stated that many businesses are behind the proposal, but as it stands, there is only one supporter from the downtown Las Vegas business community on record. In fact, during two city meetings held to discuss CLV 2013-24, only this one developer participated in and voiced support for less efficient building requirements.

Here are some facts pertinent to this “bad idea” bill:

• The state adopts building energy codes, and the cities are expected to comply. The city of Las Vegas has been working with neighboring communities to adopt state codes in lockstep, together. If CLV 2013-24 passes, the city would be thumbing its nose at the state and the other municipalities in the valley, and it would be dropping back from its regional leadership position.

• Architects, certified and licensed in Nevada, would still be required to design renovations such as a garage conversion to the state-mandated 2009 energy code, which supersedes less stringent local ordinances.

• The city’s website devotes several pages to sustainability and the energy policy adopted by the City Council in 2008. The policy “promotes reduced energy consumption” in city codes and policies, so should the proposal pass, the website language would have to be changed along with language about the city’s leadership in sustainability. In 2006, then-Mayor Oscar Goodman was one of the founding signers of the U.S. Council of Mayors Climate Protection Act through a city resolution. This resolution calls for making energy efficiency a priority through building code improvements.

• Many businesses such as Zappos and Faciliteq in downtown are embracing energy efficiency because they can enjoy lower monthly utility bills and also acquire utility rebates to offset the cost of upgrades. Based upon NV Energy’s energy savings from commercial efficiency programs in Las Vegas, businesses there are saving collectively about $3.5 million in 2012 and 2013 at the average commercial rate of 8.74 cents per kilowatt hour. Many businesses are supportive of lower monthly utility rates, better lighting for workspace and more comfortable environments year-round — benefits that energy codes provide.

For all of these reasons, we believe that CLV 2013-24 is misguided, does not serve the majority interests of citizens or businesses of Las Vegas, and should not be passed by the City Council.

Energy efficiency is the cleanest, lowest-cost and least-risky energy resource available today. Compliance with building energy codes isn’t always easy or even inexpensive, but over the long term, it is a great investment — for Las Vegas businesses and for everyone. We applaud the city for its sustainability policies and urge the council to continue moving forward, not back.

Jennifer Turchin is the president of the U.S. Green Building Council, Nevada Chapter. Randy Lavigne is the executive director of the American Institute of Architects, Nevada, and AIA Las Vegas.

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  1. I am going to guess the letter writer has never owned a small business who had the chance to buy an old building but now faces cost prohibitive laws making the venture economically feasible. Any mandated "Green" code should be balanced by the projected payback time frame and cost relative to the whole project so as to not disrupt or delay rehab of smaller older buildings. I once did a rehab of a small building in a other city and had to spend 30% extra of the total project on trees that should not have been planted and died years later but the folks at Green city had that in the code. What a waste, time and money..