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Oklahoma builders say now is not the time for costly energy code changes

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If you thought it was strange that Todd Booze, of all people, seemed to oppose energy conservation recently before the Oklahoma Uniform Building Code Commission, you weren’t alone.

After all, “Green” – as in eco-friendly – might be her middle name. He is a former president of the Oklahoma Home Builders Association, which also appeared to oppose green building.

No, they objected to a report from the commission’s energy conservation technical committee and some detailed specifications that some committee members, and others, wanted to see written into code.

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Ideal Homes & Neighborhoods, which Booze co-founded, and where he worked for years as president of construction, helped bring green construction to Oklahoma.

Among many other things, Ideal:

• Built the first “zero energy house” – which means it generates more energy than it consumes – in the United States for less than $ 200,000, in 2005.

• Construction of the first Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified house in the United States, in 2005.

• Construction of the first home certified “green” under the National Association of Home Builder’s National Green Building Program, in 2008.

So what gives?

Immovable: Oklahoma Building Commission Ends Draft Energy Conservation Code

Booze said some of the proposals would further increase the rising cost of building homes – for minimal energy savings, around $ 11 per year. One proposal, he said, would have put two window businesses in town out of business.

Now is not the right time to increase construction costs.

“We don’t want anyone who thinks builders are against energy efficient homes. It’s been my whole career, ”he said this week. “But right now one of the biggest concerns is affordability. It is a crisis in the country.

It’s about keeping people renting rather than buying, he said.

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“You hear about all these build-to-rent communities that are being built, where builders sell houses to investors, to people who rent them out? It’s going to happen (here), ”he said.

“Right now, if you look nationally, only 52%, I think, of median income people can afford a median price home. And that removes a lot more people from new homes because new homes are always, normally, much more expensive than existing homes. ”

He continued, “Our concern: owning a home is the first creator of wealth for a family, and we’ve found ourselves in an environment here where people may never have the opportunity to buy a new home because of disparity in wages and disparity in house prices.

“And as soon as interest rates go up – and they will; they’re going to increase at some point – that’s a bigger blow to the affordability problem. It has a much greater impact on affordability.

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New home prices have risen nearly 30% in the past two years, said Booze, who now leads Professional Builder Magazine’s National Housing Quality Award program.

“And there is no end in sight right now for that,” he said. “One of my passions and one of the passions (of the Oklahoma Home Builders Association) is affordability, making sure homes are available for people to buy, for families to buy.

“Because we all know that when there is a family environment, they live in a house, they live in a neighborhood, we have better results as a society than when you are pushed into an apartment and you cannot. not get out of it. and the kids have nowhere to go and play in a backyard or in a neighborhood park, or do something like that. It’s our passion.

Following: Money trumps environment as Oklahoma home builders kill proposed energy conservation code

Booze stressed that building codes are minimum standards. Some construction companies are already going over the minimum and some buyers are happy to pay it because they can.

Some of the proposed code changes would require planning and logistics to be worked out by builders, municipalities and others, but developers have never tried to consult them, said Mike Means, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Home Builders Association.

Booze said builders would have been happy to consult with the energy committee rather than oppose much of its work.

“These discussions haven’t been held with (the builders association) on how we might approach this and get there,” he said. “You know, maybe someday that will happen and we can try to figure out the logistics behind it, how we could support something like that. But it was just pedal to metal” we’re going to push it all to through. ”

Senior Business Writer Richard Mize has covered housing, construction, commercial real estate and related topics for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com since 1999. Contact him at [email protected]


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