Honolulu looks at building code changes to reduce energy use

HONOLULU — A bill before the Honolulu City Council proposes to reduce the long-term carbon footprint of Oahu’s buildings, but the measure has encountered opposition from Oahu’s gas utility and construction industry, Hawaii Public Radio reported.

The changes to the building codes would be the first in more than a decade.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that almost 40% of energy consumed in the United States is used to power buildings. That has led many state and local lawmakers to modify building codes in an effort to reduce carbon emissions.

Honolulu’s Bill 25 includes provisions such as mandating more efficient insulation and lighting in buildings but other parts of the bill have generated opposition.

The state’s construction industry opposes the bill’s proposed ban on gas water heaters in new single-family homes and a requirement for more electric vehicle charging infrastructure in apartments and commercial buildings.

Solar water heaters and electric vehicle charging stations will increase prices and put housing even further out of reach for residents in what is already one of the country’s most expensive markets, said Nathaniel Kinney of the Hawaii Construction Alliance.

The construction alliance lobbied for units designated as affordable housing to be exempt from the requirements.

Advocates of more green building codes said the new rules would save homeowners money.

While the changes may raise the cost of an initial down payment, consumers could save thousands of dollars in lower utility bills over the term of a mortgage, said Jeff Mikulina, director of Blue Planet Foundation.

The code changes could produce up to $1 billion in savings over a 20-year period, he said.

“It may cost a little bit more up front but you quickly recoup that because you don’t have to pay for electricity or gas,” Mikulina said.

The bill will be discussed at a Feb. 27 meeting of the council’s Committee on Zoning, Planning, and Housing.

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