Illinois Enacts Energy Efficiency Standards for New Homes
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, September 1, 2009 (ENS) - With the summer drawing to a close, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed new legislation into law Friday creating statewide minimum energy efficiency standards for new homes. The new standards are intended to save Illinois families money on energy costs, reduce energy waste and cut carbon emissions.

The product of years of negotiations, House Bill 3987, the Energy Efficient Building Act, brings Illinois in line with the latest International Energy Conservation Code for new residential construction, updated automatically every three years. The measure expands the existing Energy Efficient Commercial Building Act first enacted in 2004 to cover both commercial and residential buildings.

"This bill will increase the energy efficiency standards for new and renovated homes, and ultimately reduce our carbon footprint," said Governor Quinn. "It is important here in Illinois that we make a commitment to thinking and acting green, and this important legislation will help us carry out that mission."

The bill passed the House by an 89 to 28 margin on the last day of session in May after passing the Senate by a 48 to 8 margin one day earlier. Long-time sponsor State Representative Julie Hamos, an Evanston Democrat, carried the bill in the House, while Senate Assistant Majority Leader Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, led negotiations in the Senate.

In the bill, the legislature states that an effective energy efficient commercial building code is essential to reduce the air pollution, moderate future peak electric power demand, assure the reliability of the electrical grid and an adequate supply of heating oil and natural gas, control energy costs for Illinois residents and businesses.

The Energy Efficient Building Act represented an agreement between environmental groups, architects, and Illinois homebuilders.

The Home Builders Association of Illinois supports the measure and the Illinois Association of Realtors says it takes a "neutral" position.

New homes going up in Park Forest, Illinois (Photo by Richard Whitehead)

The bill provides that if a local government does not regulate energy efficient building standards, it is not required to adopt, enforce or administer the Code. But if a local government later adopts such standards, it must then comply with the Act for construction, renovations or additions.

While the bill provides that no unit of local government may regulate energy efficient building standards for residential buildings in a manner that is less or more stringent than the standards established in this Act, it does spell out specific exceptions due to existing local Codes. These include the city of Chicago and any local government that had energy efficient building standards for residential buildings in place by May 15, 2009.

Also, no unit of local government can enact any annexation that imposes standards for residential buildings less or more stringent than the energy efficiency standards in effect at the time of construction in that unit of local government.

In addition to energy efficiency standards for new homes, the bill requires that additions, alterations, renovations or repairs to an existing building comply with the Code, but the unaltered portion is not required to comply. If the energy use of the building is not increased, the Code will not apply to these changes.

The environmental benefits of this legislation are significant, says Brian Granahan of Environment Illinois. "Ten percent of all energy used worldwide is used to power U.S. buildings, creating a tremendous burden on power plants nationwide - especially in Illinois, where carbon emissions from the electricity generation sector are up 53 percent since 1990," he points out.

A 2007 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy found that having Illinois update to the latest International Energy Conservation Code standards could reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by 12.8 million tons by 2020.

"Energy efficiency standards for new residential construction are a win-win for our environment and the economy," said Granahan. "This legislation will put money in the pockets of new homeowners and help reduce our contribution to global warming. We’re delighted that Governor Quinn is taking Illinois forward to a cleaner, more energy-efficiency future."

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.