- Common sense and economic growth will fuel green movement
ENG does design work for municipalities, sewers, water mains, private developments and site planning. "Our best projects are ones that you never see, and we hope you don't see them," he says.
- Proposed Legislation Seeks to Revise Lead-Based Paint Rules
Lead-based paint exists in millions of homes in Michigan and throughout the United States. Although lead-based paint was banned in 1978, dust and chips from deteriorating old paint still pose a health risk. At the same time, it is extremely easy to become enmeshed in EPA enforcement for simple paperwork errors. Legislation introduced in 2012 seeks to resolve that issue, among other issues raised by EPA's Rule.
- Behind The Drywall Tour
The Meadowlark Builders "Behind The Drywall Tour" this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 20 thru 22, 2012 is proving to be a popular annual event.
- Matt Grocoff: Creating Michigan's first net-zero energy home
"Greening our homes is the best way to save money, help the economy, create jobs, make our homes more comfortable and help to avoid climate catastrophe and protect the one home we share."
- Condo owner wins judgment for improperly cleaned brownfield site
Brownfield redevelopment is a boon for communities that have abandoned, contaminated properties causing blight. However, when considering buying or leasing these properties, prospective purchasers should conduct their own due diligence to avoid being taken for a ride.
State building codes survive federal court scrutiny
"Buildings and fixtures tend to have long lifespans, so choices made at the outset during construction are likely to have far-reaching future effects on energy consumption. It is for this reason that Congress, in EPCA, has permitted states some limited means of regulating these choices." Building Industry Ass'n of Washington v Washington State Building Code Council, Case No. 11-35207 (WD Wash, 2012).
As state building codes have evolved, they have shifted in focus towards energy conservation. New codes that apply to builders now require meeting specific requirements related to energy efficiency – and these targets get reviewed and revised every periodically. This development is far removed from a time when energy efficiency was not even a consideration in building standards.
Why the focus on building efficiency? The main reason is that buildings in the United States are the greatest users of energy – greater than manufacturing facilities, greater than all transportation, greater than any other sector. The building sector is responsible for 72 percent of electricity use and 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, nationally, eight percent globally. No policy to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions will be successful without addressing efficiency in the building sector.
In the Washington federal court case quoted above, the Washington building industry was challenging new State of Washington building code standards for new buildings on the ground that they were preempted by a federal statute, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA). The legal doctrine of preemptions stands for the proposition that where the federal government regulates in an area and intends to supplant state law, inconsistent state laws give way to the federal standard. In this case, EPCA expressly preempts state laws that require higher energy standards for certain products, like water heaters and refrigerators, with some specific exeptions.
The Washington builders claimed that the tough Washington building code standards were preempted by EPCA because the codes would have required, or forced the builders to use, preempted equipment to meet the standards. The Washington code council argued that EPCA did not preempt its code because builders had several options to meet stricted energy codes without using covered products and builders could receive credits based solely on energy use or cost, without favoring any particular product or method. In fact, another federal court had already found another locality's energy code preempted by EPCA because the ordinance in question required builders only one choice, which was preempted by EPCA. In this case, however, the federal court found in favor of the State because (1) the Washington code did not "create any penalty or legal compulsion to use higher efficiency products" and (2) the code allowed builders to meet energy efficiency requirements through the use of credits for alternative methods to reduce energy use.
As for Michigan, the Michigan Construction Code, Uniform Energy Code applies. Under Part 10 of the Construction Code, the residential building code was amended to adopt 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) (with some sections excepted). The Code applies to new construction for detached one- or two- family homes and multiple single-family homes. A 2009 United States Department of Energy (DOE) analysis of the effect of adopting the IECC standard in Michigan concludes that energy savings related to the new code will result in savings of $256 to $292 a year, based on 2009 fuel costs. This represents a 4.0- to 7.8-percent improvement in energy usage, depending on the climate zone the building is located.
The author, Saulius Mikalonis, is an environmental attorney with over 25 years of experience in the Bloomfield Hills offices of Plunkett Cooney. He is also the author of The Green Blawg, in which he writes about environmental law issues for the non-lawyer. In addition to practicing law, Mr. Mikalonis is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills Campus, at which he teaches a course entitled "Sustainable Development Law & Policy" and a former Board Member of the Detroit Regional Chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).