Congressional Briefing on Building Codes with Sen. Shaheen

Matt Kerns

On March 20th, 2012, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute hosted a Congressional Briefing on the importance of consumer involvement in energy codes. Speakers at the event were New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Stacy Weisfeld of Consumers Union, Maureen Guttman of Building Codes Assistance Project, and Laura Richardson of New Hampshire’s Office of Energy and Planning. The briefing examined not only the results of a survey[1] of over 5,000 U.S. households on their attitudes on energy efficiency and  residential energy codes conducted by Consumers Union, but also the benefits of energy codes and why they matter to policymakers. Lastly, the audience heard about state implementation through New Hampshire’s experience in making codes work in partnering with government and private stakeholders.

Following the presentations, the floor was opened for discussion. First was a quick inquiry on how energy codes benefit smart grid technology. Maureen Guttman of BCAP simply stated that if buildings comply with the latest model energy code, that will allow a lower baseline demand and, thus, provide more power to the grid. Laura Richardson from New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning said it’s possible to have a building with no energy demand and even ADD to the grid. An example was her home that’s produces enough energy to meet or exceed her family’s energy needs. 

Questions then rose on how to include the appraisal industry, home inspectors, real estate agents, and lenders on home performance. Specifically, the audience wanted to know why energy efficiency and energy code compliance are not included in home assessments and forms, even when it’s clear that a consumer wants to know this information before making such a large purchase. The panel concluded that a paradigm shift is necessary for such aspects to be included in home evaluation and assessments. A representative from the National Fenestration Rating Council agreed and noted that consumers need to push more for what they want, but before they can do that, they must become more aware of energy efficiency and labels, such as window labels, so they fully understand their investment.

Lastly, Senator Jeanne Shaheen addressed the audience to share examples of U.S. Navy energy efficiency retrofits, specifically on the U.S.S. Kearsarge, which has won several efficiency awards from U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Department of the Navy. Senator Shaheen would like to continue leveraging what is being done at the federal level into the private sector. The expansion of the DOE loan guarantee fund to the commercial sector could promote energy codes, as well as encourage the ability of manufacturers to do retrofits.

A briefing summary, as well as the presentations, can be found on Environmental and Energy Study Institute’s website at:

For more information on BCAP and CU’s consumer outreach efforts, please visit: or

[1] The survey was part of an energy efficiency awareness initiative by Consumers Union and BCAP.
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