Kris Callori, an Albuquerque-based architect and a founding member of the Associated General Contractors Construction Leadership Council, agrees. “The initial cost of construction … is significantly less than the total cost of operating and maintaining a building over its typical life span,” she says. “A decision to invest a small amount up front to foster energy independence will return tenfold during the operational life cycle of a building.”
But Rick Davis, an Albuquerque builder-developer and state-licensed contractor, sees merit in the baseline 2009 IECC. The model code “is already over 10% to 14% [stricter with regard to] energy savings than the 2006 [model code],” he says. The adoption of the model code “accomplishes the goals of the International Code Council without unduly raising costs to consumers or over-regulating types of materials or building methods for achieving the energy savings,” he adds.
Others feel the state's change from its own code to the 2009 IECC could have been worse as far as energy efficiency standards are concerned. The IECC 2009 is a considerable improvement over the IECC 2006, mandating between 10% to 15% more energy efficiency in designs.
“They could have really 'rolled back' and kept the 2006 version in place,” says Kim Shanahan of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association.
The 2012 and 2015 versions of the model code are expected to include more improvements. Both are expected to allow for microclimate designations, which New Mexico has shown can be done, says Shanahan. And the CIC is planning to submit for public comment draft amendments, including the climate zone designations, to make the IECC code more specific to New Mexico.
Nonetheless, the groups challenging the statewide code switch are proceeding with their lawsuit with the state Court of Appeals. “A public comment period showed something like four-to-one in favor of keeping the code, yet the CIC voted to repeal,” said Tammy Fiebelkorn, a representative of Boulder, Colo.-based nonprofit Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, one of the appeal plaintiffs. “That's because Martinez ... replaced the old CIC members ... with her own.”
The eight-member CIC actually has one holdover from the Richardson administration—architect Dale Dekker. Known for green building design in the Southwest, Dekker maintains there is a legitimate reason for the decision to switch to the IECC. The rationale is that New Mexico is a poor state with an enormous number of construction job losses recently, he says.
“I don't [look at] what the state did as a rollback,” Dekker says. “It was more about … trying to remain competitive …and hopefully putting our construction industry on a more level playing field so we can put back to work some of the 23,900 construction workers in our state who are jobless,” he adds.
Alternatively, the NMECC, in conjunction with a gross receipts tax, would not add up favorably, says Dekker. New Mexico collects a gross receipts tax on construction and professional services of about 7%. It is one of the few states that collects such a tax, he says. “Add the additional energy enhancement cost being proposed in the previous NMECC and construction costs would be anywhere from 12% to 14% higher than some of the surrounding states. Those costs translate into higher housing costs and higher costs in general, creating a less-competitive environment,” he adds.
For its part, Albuquerque Public Schools will continue pursuing LEED certification on all stand-alone buildings until the school board instructs otherwise, says Karen Alarid, director of facilities design and construction.