Building Code Update – February 2022

On February 15, 2022, the Fort Collins City Council considered updating our local building code to reflect the most recent changes to the International Code along with local amendments. Every three years, the International Code Council adopts a comprehensive suite of changes that effect every aspect of the built environment. Such changes are presented for local government consideration, which can elect to adopt as presented, modify, or dismiss. Adoption of the International Code is not mandatory, though can affect property insurance rates within jurisdictions that skip two cycles or more.
Council, on first reading, considered a suite of updates that reflect objectives identified within various planning documents, most notably the Climate Action Plan (now referred to as Our Climate Future). Key elements within the proposed changes include:
  • Increased energy and water efficiency requirements
  • Solar ready and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure
  • Radon testing
Second reading of the updates is slated for April 5, 2022.

You can find background materials here.

While most will agree that improving the efficiency of our homes and businesses is beneficial on multiple levels, not all efficiency gains are inherently virtuous. Nor is the cost-benefit analysis straight forward.  For instance, the new code will require the energy load remain constant or decrease as result of any permitted additions to a detached home.  In practice, this means a homeowner will need to retrofit the existing structure such that a new bathroom doesn’t spin the electric or water meters any faster than before.

For multifamily, commercial, and industrial (MCI) properties, buildings must be “solar ready”, meaning conduits, electric service panels, and roofing structure/pad site must be installed at time of construction to accommodate photovoltaic panels.  However, if the orientation of the building is such that solar electric production is infeasible or cost prohibitive, the installed components become stranded costs.

Additionally, all new single-family properties must be EV-ready, meaning the electric service panel must accommodate increased power usage.  For MCI properties requiring more than 5 parking spots by code, the calculus gets more complex and expensive.  To the extent a percentage product equals at least 1, 15% – 40% of parking spaces must be EV-capable (conduit installed), 5% – 20% must be EV-ready (service panels and conduit installed), and up to 10% of spaces must be EV-installed (charging station is fully operational).  These same standards are retroactively applied whenever a permitted rehabilitation of an MCI property encompasses 50% or more of the building square footage.

Though the staff presentation suggests these requirements will be relatively minor – $2,500 per space for EV-installed – the estimate considers materials and equipment only.  Engineering, design, labor, and actual electric usage costs are ignored.  That is a luxury business owners will not enjoy.

Beyond the cost of designing, siting, and installing electric charging stations, the building owner will need to establish policies and pricing for the use of electrons – if cost recovery is deemed acceptable to tenants, workers, and customers.  That may be accomplished internally or through a limited number of third-party vendors that would add another cost component to the end user.

The Staff report addresses the question as to whether City Utility infrastructure can support the load requirements of widespread EV adoption.  The concern is largely dismissed as, “…rapid adoption could theoretically have a localized impact on reliability, current EV adoption trends indicate that it is not likely.”

It is important to note that EVs currently make up approximately of 4% of our vehicle stock in the state without the impetus of prescribed mandates.  However, policies at the federal, state and local level are fast-tracking the conversion of our vehicle fleet, which will introduce significant demand on our electric utility infrastructure.

Based upon City staff analysis, the proposed changes will result in a construction cost increase of approximately $8,400 for a typical single-family home.  The associated adoption costs to MCI properties are estimated to add 2% to the project budget, plus the cost of installation of EV charging stations and requisite electrical components.  Those costs alone can be substantial[1].

To compensate, the U.S. Department of Energy provides a net present value calculation to show a net recovery pf $0.96 per square foot of building space once energy cost savings are factored.  Unfortunately, this fails to recognize that most MCI properties are not owner occupied, nor financed through a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.  As such, any utility savings accrue to the tenant.

There are repercussions to not adopting the International Code and preparing for wider adoption of EVs is a rational strategy.  However, a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed modifications is rooted in the premise that both can be identified and measured. Good public policy starts with good data and, unfortunately, this proposal is moving forward in the absence of good data.

Materials provided to Council attempts to illustrate the cost of compliance with EV charging requirements for parking spaces utilizing two recent income-restricted properties as example.  One example is 140 Oak, an income-restricted multifamily rental property currently under development.  If it were built under the proposed local amendment for EV- enabled parking requirements, Utility staff estimated the additional cost to be $29,250 based upon the $2,500 per-station cost the City expends for its own facilities.  The project developer, however, provided engineering and contractor bids showing the actual cost to be $271,500.  The bid included 7 EV-installed charging stations, 14 EV-ready spaces and 26 EV-capable spaces out of 77 total parking slots.

Source: Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce 
Updated March 2022