Montgomery County Council Endorses Initiatives to Advance Climate Action Plan

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In recent weeks, Montgomery County Council has adopted two climate-focused initiatives: the 2018 International Green Building Code and amendments to a tax credit program for energy efficient buildings.

Both are among the policies and practices that county officials have focused on to meet the goals of their Climate action plan, released earlier this year. It aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions nationwide by 2035 and reduce them by 80% by 2027.

Bryan Bomer, head of sustainability, energy and mechanics at the county’s licensing services department, said in an interview that the International Green Building Code is a “holistic building code” for new constructions. The code applies to all new buildings over 5,000 square feet.

The new standards cover materials, indoor air quality, energy consumption and more, Bomer said. The county has particularly focused on the energy component to help meet the climate goals set out in the Climate Action Plan.

One aspect of the code is the zero energy performance index, or zEPI. This index shows how well different types of buildings meet energy efficiency and performance targets – the lower the score, the better the building.

Bomer said there is a need to assess different types of buildings and give them different purposes because they have different fixtures and devices and different energy needs. Hotels / motels have a zEPI target of 50, while office buildings have a target of 39, for example.

Achieving these and other calculations is technical work and requires several engineers and other partners to finalize, Bomer said.

The goal is to have buildings of each type eventually achieve a zEPI score of 0 – which means they produce as much electricity as they consume – over several code cycles, which s ‘span over several years, he added.

The county wanted to focus more on energy use, relative to the cost of energy, when drafting the code.

“What we don’t want is to favor an energy source because it was cheaper at the time. … [We] want to get away from fluctuating values ​​and focus on the source, which is energy, and understand how to reduce greenhouse gases from that perspective, ”Bomer said.

One aspect of code that works in tandem with this is “predictive energy modeling”. Bomer said modeling looks at multiple components of a building, from energy use to the orientation of a structure.

Modeling predicts what a building would use with some degree of confidence, he said. The degree of trust is higher for hospitals and other buildings due to their specialization, compared to more traditional commercial buildings, Bomer said.

He said some people have expressed concerns about the cost of implementing the changes and the time required to implement them. Bomer noted that county officials are not responsible for determining construction costs, but directing businesses and others to nonprofits and organizations that can explain why better construction and better use of energy. are a good decision.

“I would say the main concern is the cost, but a lot of that stems from the implementation, knowledge and confidence required to meet this [code]”said Bomer.

To help buildings meet these goals, the county has a property tax credit incentive program.

Lindsey Shaw, head of energy and sustainability programs in the county’s environmental protection department, said in an interview that a law has been in place to encourage environmentally friendly buildings since 2007 .

In the past, the savings on county property taxes from these tax credits could reach tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size, type and location of the building, Shaw said.

The changes to the existing tax credit originally stemmed from the county’s adoption of the 2012 International Green Building Code, Shaw said. At this point, officials realized they needed to reverse previously enacted building energy and environmental design (LEED) leadership requirements and implement a new tax credit based on the building code. green.

Even with the new law, building and business owners can still use an “intent to apply” until the end of 2021 to use the old tax credit, Shaw said. If people had previous plans, the county will honor them, she said.

To be eligible for the tax credit for energy reduction in new buildings, buildings must be 10% higher than the zEPI score. Thus, for a minimum requirement of 50, a building would have to achieve a score of at least 45 to obtain the credit.

“We’re pushing buildings to go beyond code, to be more energy efficient than code,” Shaw said.

Single-family or smaller residential properties are not included in the Green Building Code. Bomer said it is more efficient to approach larger commercial buildings than residential buildings.

Adriana Hochberg, the county’s climate change manager, said in an interview that the county is aware of potential fairness issues in the green building code and other initiatives. Hochberg said this includes the corresponding legislation on energy performance standards for buildings, currently before the county council.

This bill aims to improve these standards for several types of buildings by measuring energy consumption.

“If this legislation is passed and existing buildings are to be renovated, the county will need to provide not only technical assistance, but also financial assistance to struggling sectors, such as affordable housing,” Hochberg said. “So we’re not making it difficult for people who already have tight incomes. “

Steve Bohnel can be contacted at [email protected]


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