Official: New building codes may add costs to new projects

Alisa Boswell

Portales’ building inspector says new building codes recently adopted by the city could add as much as $8,000 to the cost of building a new home.

On June 7, the Portales City Council voted to adopt the 2009 New Mexico building codes, which includes an energy efficient code and is the source of controversy with some construction professionals.

Portales Building Inspector and Planning Director Sammy Standefer said the new code places a 30 percent increase on energy efficiency, which will add anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000 per unit to the cost of building new homes.

“I believe that we’ll see more stringent energy codes each year, because of the energy efficient technologies,” Standefer said. “Ultimately, the codes over the years will become more energy efficient, for example, requiring more electrical lighting and such.”

Standefer said the energy conservation code will deal with heating and cooling systems, insulation in the walls and the types of lights used.

He said the new energy efficient code is effective July 1. It does not apply to previously existing structures but will apply to new residential and commercial structures.

“As of Friday, I believe they’ve added a little bit of leniency on that,” Standefer said. “It’s supposed to be at least 15 percent more energy efficient now.”

He said he didn’t know specifics of changes made to the efficiency code Friday by the Construction Industries Division of the State Regulation and Licensing Department out of Santa Fe. Standefer said other than the energy efficient code, there were no other changes to the 2009 building codes.

Officials in Santa Fe were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Paul Reed, owner of Paul C. Reed Architects in Clovis, who contracts with local construction companies, said energy efficient codes get a little more strict and detailed each year.

“Construction has always tried to build with energy efficiency, so all buildings are energy efficient to some extent. But now it seems to be more about technology rather than the way the buildings are constructed,” Reed said. “At this point, it doesn’t seem very cost effective. In my mind, for the materials you put into it, it doesn’t seem to pay itself out for a long time.”

Reed said rather than just the usual energy efficient building additions, such as windows which are air tight and have shading over them, there are now technologies being added to control heating , cooling and lights.

“What I’m starting to hear from clients is first, ‘Do we have to do it?’ and second, ‘Does it really pay for itself over time or is it just a ‘feel good’ thing where we think we are being energy efficient but we are really just spending money that we can never pay back?’” Reed said. “These are questions I can’t answer right now, because I haven’t done the research.”

Several Portales construction companies were unavailable for comment Tuesday or said they did not yet know about the energy efficient changes made to the building codes.

“The industries commission voted on Friday to alter that code,” Standefer said. “I expect a memo in the next few days explaining what is to be adopted and what is not.”