Success Story: Kansas City Pushes Strong Energy Code Update To Spur Metropolitan Area In Home Rule State

by Paul Karrer

The states of Missouri and Kansas present unique challenges to building energy code adoption support. As home rule states, they do not adopt mandatory statewide codes, necessitating local adoption strategies. The two states also share a major metropolitan area comprised of many municipalities with code enforcement authority. As such, market efficiencies in the building industry have developed in recent years and incentivized local jurisdictions adopting regulations identical or substantially similar to those in neighboring areas. However, this has also caused stronger desires among the municipalities to maintain the status quo and extend code update cycles beyond the three-year national model code cycle.

Local stakeholders consider Kansas City, Missouri (population 463,000) a tipping point for successful energy code adoption throughout the rest of the metropolitan area (population 2.1 million). Some of the other major cities include Overland Park, Kansas City, Olathe, Shawnee, and Lenexa in Kansas and Independence, Lee’s Summit, and Blue Springs in Missouri. These areas often view Kansas City, Missouri as the first adopter in certain policy arenas, including building codes. In 2010, BCAP identified the metro area as one of its “Ten Places to Watch” for energy code policy updates.

As with most energy code update processes, the major point of contention was the cost of building to the new code. BCAP worked with the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA), ICF International, the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC), and other organizations to develop an accurate cost increment study for the 2012 IECC in Kansas City. BCAP found that for the average new home, the 2012 IECC would only increase construction costs within a range of $1,460 to $2,293. When this amount is rolled into the average mortgage, real costs to homebuyers will mean a down payment increase of only $292 to $459, and $6 to $9 added to monthly mortgage bills. The added mortgage will be offset by monthly energy savings of $51.73, helping homebuyers pay off their initial investment in only seven to eleven months. After breaking even during that time, the home will return buyers a profit of at least $43 per month – a total return of $516 every year. This cost study was presented to local supporters organized by the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), including the local homebuilders association, and the Kansas City Building Code Officials (KCBCO).

Working in the Kansas City region stemmed from a 2011 ARRA-funded grant to cross the state gathering building code information to prepare a Gap Analysis report and create various tools for stakeholders and builders. The Kansas City area was the first stop in BCAP’s tour of Missouri. During the team’s initial meetings, staffer met was able to meet with Kansas City, Independence, Blue Springs, and Lee’s Summit. At these meetings, BCAP presented the idea of adopting the 2012 IECC and began working with local code officials to determine the resources needed. This project eventually took BCAP to almost every corner of the state, covering over 75 percent of the total population of Missouri.

During this process, BCAP was able to uncover new local stakeholders that would carry the torch in the adoption process, including MARC, Sierra Club Missouri, the Kansas City chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Missouri Municipal League, and the Missouri Association of Counties. MARC in particular was a key supporter and contributor to the effort, having already spent some time working on the code issue in the area. This allowed BCAP to collaborate with an excellent local partner on cost numbers, aspects of the amendments, and future training and resource development. BCAP eventually made more than five trips to the Kansas City area, building support for the adoption goals each time.

On May 24, 2012, the City Council of Kansas City, Missouri approved, and the Mayor signed, an ordinance adopting a package of the 2012 ICC code series, including an amended version of the 2012 IECC for residential and commercial construction. The Kansas City Building and Rehabilitation Code is less efficient than the 2012 IECC and ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010, but more stringent than the 2009 IECC and ASHRAE 90.1-2007. The package achieves a roughly 20% improvement above the 2006 IECC (the city’s previous code update). While the new code is effective June 3, 2012, mandatory compliance will not begin until October 1, 2012.

This adoption, while a huge success, is a direct reflection of increased coordination and cooperation between national, regional, and local stakeholders in the energy code adoption process. Overland Park, Kansas has already adopted standards based on the Kansas City example, and other major municipalities are expected to soon follow soon. With the adoption of the 2009 IECC already accomplished by Springfield, Missouri and most jurisdictions in the St. Louis metro area, a significant fraction of the population and construction activity of Missouri will now be covered by updated energy codes.