|Action||Update the Uniform Statewide Building Code|
|Comment Period||Ends 6/26/2020|
Adopt IECC provisions to protect health and equity in Virginia
The Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development (BHCD) can ensure an energy-efficient, healthy future for the residents of the Commonwealth by updating the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC). Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action (VCCA) recommends that the BHCD meet or exceed guidelines in the most recent (2018) International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) to achieve this goal.
Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that housing renovations based on various “green” building standards similar to those outlined in the IECC are associated with better human health (1, 2, 3, 4). Green building methods often involve improving ventilation, insulation, and heating and cooling equipment to increase energy efficiency and reduce pollutants; controlling moisture in buildings; and avoiding building materials that contain hazardous substances (1, 2). A study investigating the health effects of residential energy conservation among 248 households in Boston, Chicago, and New York City found that energy retrofits resulted in statistically significant improvements in general health and symptoms associated with sinusitis and hypertension (1). Green renovations of low-income housing in Washington, DC yielded significant improvements in general health, in addition to improvements in building dampness problems and reductions in cockroach and rodent allergens (3). Ventilation upgrades have been shown to relieve asthma-related and non-asthma respiratory problems (4).
Furthermore, energy-efficient homes can improve the well-being of Virginians through decreasing the financial burden associated with energy costs. Governor Northam’s Executive Order 43 recognized that low-income and minority households experienced higher energy-related financial burdens than the average household in the same city, and clean energy innovation can lower energy bills for these populations, promoting equity in Virginia (5). Low-income and minority populations disproportionately experience the harmful effects of climate change and environmental problems (6); adopting progressive building guidelines is a necessary step towards alleviating health disparities.
In the United States, buildings use 40% of our energy and 70% of our electricity, and emit over 33% of our greenhouse gas emissions (7). Energy production and emissions contribute to air pollution and climate change, both of which are associated with a multitude of direct and indirect health consequences. Continuously updating building codes will protect the future health of our community, as houses may last decades to over a century.
VCCA recommends that the BHCD adopt the latest IECC provisions and prepare to continue updating Virginia code in accordance with new IECC recommendations to best protect health and equity in the Commonwealth.