Energy Code Excellence in the Southwest

November 9, 2012 | Andrea Krukowski

In my last post I wrote about this year’s grand prize winner for the Excellence in Energy Code Compliance Award, the building department of the Village of Hoffman Estates, Ill., and what it’s doing to improve energy code compliance. Today I’d like to take the chance to highlight our other two winners—Pima County, Ariz., and Gil Rossmiller, Chief Building Official of Parker, Colo.

Pima County, Ariz.

The Excellence in Energy Code Compliance Award for the Large Jurisdictions Category was awarded to Pima County, Ariz. The Pima County Building Safety and Sustainability Department serves a population of about 353,000 in both urbanized and rural areas.

The Department collaborates with the local electric utility, which helped identify two areas with weak energy code compliance: HVAC right-sizing and insulation installation. Understanding these weaknesses, the Department revamped its inspection and permitting process and bolstered the new policies with trainings and audits.

The county worked with the Alliance of Construction Trades, as well as other local trade associations and manufacturers, to improve outreach and keep training and program costs low. The Chief Building Official, Yves Khawam, and Green Building Program Manager, Rich Franz-Under, maintain a level of quality assurance on new initiatives through audits, trainings, and one-on-one education to ensure their success.

Pima County also offers several beyond-code programs, including the Regional Residential Green Building Program and the Net-Zero Energy Building Standard as an alternative compliance path. These programs familiarize builders with advanced energy efficiency building techniques before they are required by code.

Gil Rossmiller- Parker, Colo.

Gil Rossmiller, Chief Building Official of Parker, Colo., received the Energy Code Champion Award for his leadership of integrating energy code enforcement into Parker’s existing processes. When Gil started as a building official in 2003, Parker did not enforce the energy code.

Gil took charge of educating the building community and other inspectors about the code and when and how it would be enforced. As Gil puts it, the entire community was learning about the energy code together. Parker worked with manufacturers, suppliers, and trade associations to keep these trainings free for builders and the building department.

The building department offered a free home energy rating as an educational tool for each builder, so that they can observe the impact of the new code requirements on energy use. Seeing the results of the home energy ratings reduced opposition toward more stringent code enforcement and showed the department how to improve training, compliance, and outreach.

Above and Beyond Efforts

Pima County’s initiatives and Parker’s code enforcement process exemplify best practices. Both building departments take advantage of their relationships with outside organizations (including the local utility, in Pima’s case) to improve their knowledge of code compliance issues, enhance outreach and training capabilities, and keep programs cost-effective.

Furthermore, Pima’s beyond-code programs and Parker’s educational tools and trainings helped prepare builders for and reduced opposition to new advances in the code.

In my next post I’ll share examples of other large jurisdictions with innovative code enforcement programs.

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Andrea Krukowski

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