Aspen eyes building-code changes |

Aspen eyes building-code changes

John Colson

A new set of building codes aimed at increasing the energy efficiency of structures built in the Aspen area will be the subject of a public hearing before the Aspen City Council tonight.

The new codes are amendments to the Uniform Building Code, a nationwide set of basic building regulations that are annually adopted by the city.

The amendments, which will be presented to the council by chief building official Stephen Kanipe, were written in cooperation with Randy Udall, who heads up the Community Office of Resource Efficiency.

Kanipe said Friday that anyone interested in the proposed code amendments should come to the City Council meeting at 5:30 p.m., in the basement of City Hall, to either observe or comment.

In drafting the code amendments, Kanipe said Friday that he had the help of some members of the local contracting and building community. They have asked that the city adopt a set of clear, unambiguous guidelines concerning energy efficiency, Kanipe said.

The code would establish a “budget” of energy consumption which all new homes must meet, unless the structures qualify for exemptions under certain guidelines. The code also contains provisions for payment of an “energy code fee,” amounting to 10 percent of the building code fee, that must be paid when building plans are submitted for review.

Under the amendments, a new provision allows for a 50 percent reduction in the energy fee for buildings that comply with Aspen/Pitkin Green Building Program. Kanipe said the building permit fee for a 2,500-square-foot structure can be up to roughly $2,000, which normally would call for an energy code fee of $200.

Among the new amendments are a proposal to create a Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, which provides options for builders concerning the amount of energy consumed by new or remodeled structures.

“Briefly, the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program provides a voluntary offsetting fee option to homes that do not meet the energy budget,” according to a memo by Kanipe.

The program, according to Udall and Kanipe, is designed to offset the environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions produced by new homes that include exterior snow-melt, pool and spa systems.

Under the new regulations, the REMP would be a voluntary program for all homes under 5,000 square feet. The fee is intended “to raise enough money to eliminate twice as much pollution as will be produced by the snow-melt, pool or spa systems during twenty years of operation.”

Examples of some of the fees are included in the code. For instance, the fee for a 500-square-foot snow-melt system would be $8,117; for a 100-square-foot spa, $20,279, and for a 600-square-foot pool for summer use only, $8,207.

Homes of more than 5,000 square feet would be required to either pay a $5,000 mitigation fee for any noncomplying features of the home – such as snow-melt surfaces, an outdoor pool or outdoor spa – or install an on-site renewable energy system.

Fees collected under the REMP, Udall explains in his memo, will be used to “fund renewable energy and energy efficiency installations in Pitkin County and, if necessary, purchase wind energy from wind generators in Colorado and/or Wyoming,” thereby reducing the amount of power obtained from high-pollution sources such as coal-fired plants.

Udall notes that the REMP was created after a number of homeowners, architects and builders asked about receiving credit for using wind-power or other renewable sources of energy, to bring their homes into compliance with the Aspen/Pitkin Energy Conservation Code.

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