Houston Considers Stricter Energy Efficiency

A state law that goes into effect January 1st will increase the energy efficiency requirement for new residential development. The city plans to exceed that requirement by five percent, in agreement with the Construction Industry Council of Houston.

But a group of environmental leaders wants the city to go even further, by adopting a standard that is 15 percent more efficient.

Environment Texas' Tessa McClellan says Houston already set standards 15 percent above the state minimum three years ago.

"Which was part of the reason that the State of Texas — it propelled the State of Texas to then up its own state minimum. So we are asking Houston to maintain its leadership."

Increasing the standard by 15 percent would add about $1,600 to the average mortgage. McClellan says homeowners would see immediate energy savings to offset those costs.

But Councilmember Sue Lovell, who chairs the Development and Regulatory Affairs Committee, says in this economic climate, it's not a simple matter to add to the cost of a new home.

"It's difficult, as it is, to qualify for a new home loan and an increase of just a couple hundred dollars can actually disqualify you from the loan. So it's a balance between energy efficiency and also not adding to the cost of a home and disqualifying people from buying a new home."

Lovell says she would consider a proposal that would incrementally increase the standard over time. Houston councilmembers will vote on the energy efficiency proposal in two weeks.

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