What are building codes, and what impact do they have on Golden’s climate and sustainability goals?

    Building codes are sets of local regulations that govern the design, construction and modification of commercial buildings and homes. Here in Golden, our community values sustainability and quality of life – these are two values that start in the homes where people live and buildings where people work.  

    As a practice, the City regularly adopts the latest International Building Codes and amends the residential and commercial Sustainability Menus periodically to reflect the best practices in sustainable construction. 

    According to the City’s greenhouse gas inventory conducted in 2019, the combined greenhouse gas emissions associated with buildings accounts for 58% of the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions.  

    That means that burning gas to heat or power our homes and buildings is Golden’s biggest contributor to climate change.  

    After Council’s adoption of the most recent sustainability goals in 2019, follow- up research indicated that the current strategy of regular code updates plus use of the sustainability menus will fall short of meeting the City’s 2030 and 2050 sustainability goals. Golden’s climate and sustainability goals can be found on the City’s Sustainability Initiatives page.

    What happened after determining that the City of Golden may need further action to meet its climate and sustainability goals?

    Golden’s Community Sustainability Advisory Board (CSAB) and Planning Commission began a process to evaluate different energy code options by first establishing a set of guiding principles, and hiring a technical consultant and professional facilitator to host a short-term focus group--the Energy Code Stakeholder Group.

    What stakeholders were involved in building out the energy code strategy?

    Twelve community members were selected from an application process to participate in the Energy Code Stakeholder Group. The group represented various interests within Golden, including homeowners, renters, contractors, commercial building owners, housing authority representatives and city staff from the Building, Planning, Sustainability, and Affordable Housing divisions. The group met over five meetings held during spring and summer 2022.

    The group’s efforts are documented at www.guidinggolden.com/net-zero-buildings, which features the list of stakeholder group members, meeting agendas, videos, presentation materials and evaluation reports. The page also hosts community questions and answers.

    In addition, CSAB and Planning Commission have held numerous opportunities for public comment, including 20 regular meetings since 2019 where the topic was a primary discussion item and 23 additional meetings where the Boards were given regular updates.

    What are the four strategies that CSAB and Planning Commission are recommending?

    • Strategy 1:  Requiring a code with all-electric provisions for NEW residential and commercial construction with a date for implementation six months from adoption. This policy would require all-electric buildings with 100% onsite renewable energy production and no natural gas connections.  
    • Strategy 2:  Adopting a resolution to commit to build all new municipal buildings as the same all-electric, net zero construction in addition to the currently required LEED certification. 
    • Strategy 3:  Adopting a commercial energy benchmarking program, to utilize the data received to support informed recommendations for a policy to address energy improvements to existing buildings at a future time. 
    • Strategy 4:  Committing to further research and recommendations to be completed in 2023 to address how the City may advance the conversion of existing buildings towards net zero, all-electric conditions in the coming years and how the City may address and include other sustainable building code requirements unrelated to energy for new and existing buildings, such as water efficiency, waste diversion and sustainable building materials. 

    With all four strategies, the City of Golden should provide training, outreach, information, and possible incentives to support homeowners, developers, and city staff. 

    For now, it seems like the net zero energy building codes would just affect NEW homes and buildings, correct?

    Yes – the recommendations for net zero energy building codes are for NEW buildings and homes, with encouragement for further research and recommendations on building codes for existing buildings. Since we know that gas in homes and buildings is the biggest source of carbon pollution in Golden, CSAB and the Planning Commission have advised the adoption of net zero energy codes to ensure that any new construction in Golden does not ultimately increase carbon pollution.

    What are some of the cost estimates associated with net zero energy building codes?

    Let’s take an example of building a new single-family home.  

    Savings estimates: 

    • $8,000 average savings for initial construction costs for electrified equipment 
    • $4,000 average savings for eliminating gas connection 

    Cost estimates:  

    • $1,000 average additional costs for home energy model report 
    • $2,500 average additional costs for Level 2 electric vehicle charger 
    • Plus some additional costs for on-site renewable energy system to meet 100% 

    So, you’re looking at a few thousand dollars more in savings (at least!) versus costs associated with building a net zero home, and that’s before you get the savings over time on your utility bill.  

    There are also great financial incentives for homes and businesses to take advantage of, including: 

    • 30% Federal solar tax credit until 2032
    • Xcel Energy electrified equipment rebates
    • City of Golden electrified equipment rebates

    What are the benefits of net zero homes and buildings?

    • Improved indoor air quality and public health for people living and working in buildings in Golden.
    • Affordability and cost competitiveness: Little to no utility costs.
    • Higher return on investment for landlords and developers.

    Will this affect the price of building in Golden?

    As we build Golden’s future, we want to be sure it’s done sustainably. We also must ensure that every person who lives in a home or works in a building in Golden is safe, warm, and breathing clean air. 

    Based on data from communities around the state of Colorado and across the country that are building net zero, costs will continue to come down as renewable technology advances and new building standards become adopted broadly. Also, due to the combination of state and federal incentives to electrify homes and buildings, this is a very good time for the City of Golden to lead the charge for healthy homes and better buildings. 

    How can people learn more?

    Documents and resources are available on this page. You may also subscribe to this page to be notified of updates. And be sure to tune into Council on February 14 for more information.