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July 15, 2017

Arlington can only reduce its green house gas emissions if the Virginia State Board toughens Virginia building standards and codes

Development,environment — @ 2:00 pm

The Arlington County Board in 2013 adopted a Community Energy Plan (CEP) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Arlington by 75 percent within roughly 30 years, but the recommended policy measures were never put into effect. Nearly 80 percent of Arlington GHG comes from buildings, and therefore, the first CEP goal was to tighten building codes for new and remodeled buildings, This never occurred as these codes are set by a Virginia statewide board that has refused to tighten energy standards on new construction. The second goal of the Arlington plan was a district energy plan of co-generation power plants and that never into practice owing to opposition from private companies including Dominion Power.

Somewhat paradoxically, GHG in Arlington did decline by about 18 percent, according to the county, during 2007-15 because Dominion Power used more natural gas and less coal to produce electricity, and because of about one-fifth of Arlington office space becoming vacant, thus cutting energy use in commerce. However, residential use of energy in Arlington rose as larger and more energy inefficient homes and apartments were built, and as the population rose by 14 percent during 2000-15.

Arlington County cannot require builders to meet tighter building standards but rather depends on the Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development’s building code. The CEP indicated in 2013 that if this state board adopted a tougher International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) in Virginia, then Arlington building efficiency would rise about 30 percent. The state board never tightened the code.

Now in 2017, the state board is considering the adoption of the 2015 IECC that would likely mean an energy savings of slightly considerably over 30 percent above the current weaker version of the 2012 code.

It is therefore imperative that Arlington obtain adoption of the full 2015 IECC that would mean that new buildings would likely be about 30 more efficient per square foot than currently.

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