OPINION: Communities deserve the choice to build smart from start
Oregon is growing fast, adding more homes and buildings to keep up with demand for our newest neighbors and a recovering economy. Communities from Beaverton to Bend are asking Oregon's Legislature to give us the choice to build smarter from the start.
Energy efficient buildings are our first line of defense against the extreme heat, wildfire smoke and air pollution we've all experienced in the past few years. These homes and buildings are sealed tightly to keep pollution out, and heating and cooling in for every-season comfort. Efficient buildings waste less energy which means lower bills and lower climate impact.
More than a dozen communities across our state, including ours, are eager to have a local discussion about requiring new homes and buildings to be more energy efficient, because it is critical to preparing for the future. When structures we build today will be standing for a generation or more, we want the option to do it right from the beginning. However, current state law is holding us back.
Currently, all cities, towns and counties must follow a single state building code for everything from houses to high-rises, and rules from fire safety to energy use. The "Reach Code" legislation (Senate Bill 1518) will allow local municipalities the choice to adopt a code requiring at least 10% more energy efficiency in new construction. The same experts at the state level will research and write this one additional code, and your city council or county commission will have a local conversation and choose whether to adopt it or stick with the basic code.
Leading cities and towns are excited to begin this conversation and we look to the Legislature to give us that option by finally passing the Reach Code bill this year.
For many builders across Oregon, widespread adoption of these new standards will be a welcome way to further reduce climate pollution from buildings — currently Oregon's second largest source of greenhouse gases behind transportation. Bend and other communities are already using techniques and technology to reach more energy efficiency — providing our customers with savings on electricity, water and other utilities and keeping them comfortable during high desert winters and summers. In fact, we've built and sold affordable housing units so efficient, they create as much energy as they use thanks to solar panels. Those homeowners have shared stories of how their efficient, tightly sealed homes kept the air inside clean and healthy while the surrounding community was socked in with wildfire smoke.
Truly affordable housing is not only affordable to buy or rent, but also affordable to live in. More efficient homes and buildings can be constructed to these new standards affordably, and those who move in enjoy the savings and comfort from day one.
Climate change has come to Oregon. Providing this tool to communities enables us to prepare our future buildings against the harms of a warming world and lower our buildings' impact on the environment, thereby protecting our communities and doing our part to reduce climate pollution.
Cities and towns like Beaverton, Bend and many other communities have climate action plans. It's time for state lawmakers to give us access to this tool to help us fulfill those plans.
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