In 2010, Rifle was a thriving city of 9,000 in Western Colorado’s Garfield County that encapsulated the old and new west. Named for a trapper’s misplaced firearm, the town center is a throwback to the old west, a collection of small brick buildings built by the ranches and mineral wealth of the surrounding arid plateaus and river valleys. To avoid going the way of other boom and bust towns, Rifle made a commitment to developing a sustainable, diverse economy. Mainstays of the city’s past, like cattle ranching and oil and gas exploration, were joined by new industries, including recreation and construction. Rifle also sought to leverage its location at the heart of the fossil fuel industry to become a bridge to the clean energy economy of the future. This vision was demonstrated by the construction of the largest municipally-owned solar array in Colorado on the site of the Energy Innovation Center, a former brownfield site where uranium mill tailings were once stored. Among other sustainability efforts, Rifle was committed to improving the energy efficiency of new homes and commercial buildings through both partnerships with the building community and an upgraded energy code.
Why We Watched
Partnerships with the Building Community
Successful energy code improvements in Rifle were achieved through a series of partnerships with the local building community. In 2008, the city launched an effort to improve education and training for both City staff and the building community. With funding provided by the state of Colorado’s Governor’s Energy Office and a local group, Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), the town partnered with a large local homebuilder, who volunteered to build three of their Habitat for Humanity homes to ENERGY STAR standards.
Based on the success of the ENERGY STAR program with the builders who participated in it, the city staff recommended to the City Council that it create a two-year program requiring all new homes to be built to Energy Star standards. To help smooth the process, the town applied for a $5,000 grant available from CLEER, which would provide incentives for builders to build ENERGY STAR homes and cover some of the additional training costs for builders.
In May 2010, Rifle was preparing to hold a training session to explain to builders how to apply for the $700 per new home rebate offered by the local utility, Xcel Energy. The utility was offering rebates for new homes that achieved a HERS rating of 85 or less. Members of the planning department in tandem with representatives of CLEER were to lead the training, which would include energy efficiency technologies that provided the most “bang for the buck” for builders.
Model Code Adoption
City staff also moved forward to upgrade the model energy code. In April 2010, at a workshop held by town staff, the city council planned to consider the adoption of the 2009 IBC and the 2009 IECC to replace the current 2003 codes. For commercial buildings, town staff planned to consider ASHRAE 90.1-2007, but intend to conduct additional outreach to commercial builders to evaluate their receptiveness to the new code.