Arkansas Homebuilders Get Their Way on Energy Code

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 12:00 am  

Ron Hughes, owner of Home Energy Rating Services of Little Rock, wanted the Arkansas Energy Code to include mandatory energy testing of new homes. The city of Fayetteville requires new homes to list an "Energy Scorecard."  (Photo of Hughes by Mark Friedman)

In the fight between the Arkansas Homebuilders Association and energy auditors over updating the Arkansas Energy Code, the first round went to the homebuilders.

The association was able to remove the language in the proposed Arkansas Energy Code that would have required all new homes in the state to go through an inspection of the type performed by energy auditors before being sold, a process that’s currently required in the city of Fayetteville.

Under an earlier proposal, an “Arkansas Home Performance Label” would have been posted on the new home to show the estimated annual energy cost of the building. The label would be similar to the familiar EnergyGuide labels that disclose the annual operating costs and relative efficiency of specific appliance models.

The proposed energy code still needs to be approved by the Arkansas Legislature’s Joint Committee on Energy and then the Administrative Rules & Regulations Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council, said J.D. Lowery, the deputy director of the Arkansas Energy Office, a division of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The code is expected to go before the committees in April.

Ron Hughes, owner of Home Energy Rating Services of Little Rock, wanted the energy code to include mandatory energy testing of new residential homes. Hughes and other energy raters would have benefited from requiring homes to undergo a mandatory energy rating — but they argue that the end buyer would benefit even more.

“The Energy Office removed the things that the Homebuilders Association didn’t like,” said Hughes. “We’ve got the homebuilder’s code, no testing of ducts, no energy rating of houses.”

The cost for the energy audit is estimated to start at $700, but could be more depending on the size of the structure.

Steve Rucker, the president of the Arkansas Homebuilders Association, said homebuilders support implementing a number of energy efficiency proposals in the code but not the mandatory energy rating.

The association worked closely with the Arkansas Energy Office and others to draft the energy code “that results in more energy efficient homes while maintaining affordability,” Rucker said in a statement he read to Arkansas Business. “Energy-efficient measures must always be weighed against the cost of those measures to achieve a balance in which the cost of implementation doesn’t outweigh the savings to be gained. And we believe the proposed 2014 Arkansas Energy Code achieves that balance.”

Instead of having an energy performance label, the code now calls call for the home to have an energy disclosure label, which will include all the energy-efficiency items in the home. This code is similar to a nutrition label that tells consumers the ingredients in a food or beverage.

“We’ve kind of scaled back our approach,” said Lowery of the Energy Office. “We think it will hopefully meet everybody’s needs.”

Lowery said the Energy Office worked with a number of interested parties in creating the code. But the homebuilders “are the main ones that are impacted by this increased cost,” he said. “We’re still moving forward to try and come up with the best policy possible that’s going to meet everybody’s needs.”



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