With a low cost of living, ample job growth, and a warm climate, the state of Georgia – and especially its fast-growing capital, Atlanta – emerged as one of the most desirable places to live in the U.S during the early 2000s. Since 1960, runaway growth in Atlanta’s booming suburbs more than tripled the population of the once sleepy southern capital from 1.5 to 5.5 million residents across the 13 county metropolitan area. This growth strained the city’s resources, however. As the city continued to grow, careful management of the region’s water, transportation systems, and energy resources became important if the city is to continue to maintain its self-described role as the economic capital of the New South.
Why We Watched
Model Code Adoption
Energy codes emerged as one part of the state’s strategy to save energy. The state adopted the 2006 IECC effective January 1, 2008. Georgia also assessed the latest model energy codes, with the Georgia State Codes Advisory Committee (SCAC) kicking off the process with a meeting on July 23, 2009 to assemble task forces to review the 2009 IECC and ASHRAE 90.1-2007 as well as the ICC-700 as a possible green building standard. Task force members represented state and local governments, utilities, homebuilding groups, and other private industries. The new energy code was approved by the SCAC and the Board of Community Affairs (which is responsible for final rulemaking) and took effect on January 1, 2011.
A number of amendments were adopted to strengthen the model code. One amendment banned grid-connected attic ventilator fans in new construction. Another state amendment restricted the use of electric resistance heating for one- and two-family dwellings and all residential structures up to three stories in height. Other possible amendments being considered by the task force at the time included a requirement that homebuilders conduct mandatory blower door tests, which builders may conduct themselves if they take an approved certification class. Training for duct blaster and blower door tests would be provided by an eight hour course developed by the state. Another possible amendment would have added an appendix to the code which could be adopted by local jurisdictions to require builders to retain third party inspectors to certify code compliance.
Green Building Code Task Force
The state of Georgia also created a Residential Green Building Code Task Force that was reviewing the ICC 700-2008, the National Green Building Standard. The Task Force was charged with reviewing and making recommendations to the State Codes Advisory Committee on whether the state should adopt the standard, which, if approved, would become a statewide permissive green building standard. This meant that a local jurisdiction would have to adopt the standard in their ordinance if they chose to enforce it.
Recovery Act Funds
By the end of 2010, the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) had distributed $185 million in Recovery Act funds to local jurisdictions. Of this total, $13.3 million was awarded to 64 small and medium-sized Georgia communities through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program, which contained a variety of energy efficiency programs, including code compliance efforts.