Missourians live in a “Home Rule” state. Local jurisdictions adopt the building codes, including energy codes, that work for the residents and builders. This allows the people who live in an area to determine their own health, safety, and environmental goals. After over two years of analysis, research, and testimony, Kansas City, Missouri voted to adopt the 2021 IECC (International Energy Conservation Code). This code will not be enforced until July 2023, which provides builders and developers time to prepare for compliance changes.
Builders and energy professionals have been working together to understand what the new standards will entail. After much discussion, the general consensus is that the 2021 IECC will provide an energy reduction of about 30% over current Kansas City codes, and the cost to implement it will be offset by the resultant lower utility bills. Utility payments are, on average, the second highest expense in home ownership, right after mortgage payments. Utility bill payments are decreased the very first month of home ownership. The savings are immediate, and the full investment pays back in an average of six to eight years. The reduced utility payments, comfort, and improved indoor air quality are permanent improvements.
Unfortunately, there is a movement at the state level that could jeopardize Kansas City’s ability to make this plan a reality. House Bill 580 prohibits any community in the state from adopting any ordinance, resolution, regulation, code, or policy that includes a handful of energy efficiency requirements for new dwellings. The bill:
• Prohibits codes with wood frame wall cavity insulation greater than R-13
• Makes it illegal to require the utilization of exterior continuous insulation
• Outlaws a maximum air leakage rate less than five air changes per hour
• Bans a requirement for ceiling insulation greater than R-38
• Requires that the use of framed cavities as ducts or plenums be allowed
This bill would make it against the law for Kansas City to enforce the 2021 IECC for new houses, duplexes, or townhouses. HB580 moves the state of Missouri backwards. In Kansas City, we will be under the 2009 IECC, and in some cases jurisdictions will be sent all the way back to the 2006 IECC. An estimated 120 jurisdictions across the state would have to roll back their codes to avoid breaking the law.
The items listed by the bill greatly impact comfort, health, building durability, and energy efficiency. HB580 is in direct conflict with many years of improvements focused on evidence-based building science and construction research. If these changes are allowed to occur, our state’s building stock will be sub-par for decades into the future. Our housing will be more expensive, less safe, and far less comfortable.
Those in favor of the bill are saying that the new energy codes are stealing the dream of home ownership away from Missourians by making homes less affordable. However, this is blatantly untrue! First, analysis of current home plans shows that the cost to meet the 2021 Energy Code increases the cost of construction by an average of $6,000 and saves the potential homeowner an average of $600 per year. The mortgage cost would increase approximately $30 per month, but the utility bills would decrease approximately $50 per month meaning that the total cost of ownership actually decreases by $20 per month! Secondly, there is a mortgage tool called an EEM - Energy Efficient Mortgage, which every mortgage company and bank are required to make available to potential home buyers which is backed by the secondary mortgage market. This mortgage tool includes an analysis of the energy efficiency of a new home and includes the utility costs in the mortgage calculator providing a "stretch loan" based on the savings in utility costs. Having more energy efficient housing actually makes the dream of home ownership more attainable by more Missourians!
A public hearing was held on this House Bill wherein a staggering 93% of public comments, made in-person and through official online channels, were against the proposed changes. Despite overwhelming disapproval by the people who will be most impacted, this bill has passed out of committee and will move to the full State House soon.
Those chosen few who are meant to be our representatives are ignoring the voice of the people. A few special interests are attempting to override what’s best for their constituents, despite the experts and evidence in front of them. If you can, please write to your representative and let them know that this is unacceptable. Missourians deserve to live in the highest conditions that can be provided for them, using methods backed by construction research and building science.