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Inside the climate battle quietly raging about US homes | US news

Some challenges to US climate action are obvious – like when Donald Trump boasts about leaving the international Paris agreement and rolling back pollution rules.

But many more play out behind the scenes. One of those is the battle over efforts to make America’s new homes and buildings more energy-efficient.

On one side are the city and state officials trying to go greener, and on the other are real estate developers and the natural gas industry.

The International Code Council, which like the World Series largely concerns Americans, met this week on updating the baseline codes that most states and cities adopt for new buildings. The council is reviewing about two dozen proposals that would, for example, require builders to install electrical outlets near gas stoves that may one day be replaced with electric ones; and to wire enough power to garages where people may one day want to plug in electric cars.

In the US, the energy used in buildings accounts for more than one-third of heat-trapping emissions, and reducing those emissions is key to the nation’s climate progress.

With the stakes high, climate advocates last year launched a campaign to make sure that more climate-minded officials – the ones that set energy and environment rules, in addition to those who enforce code – were involved in the normally obscure process.

The plan worked, and a slate of efficiency measures was approved.

Developers and gas utilities have not been pleased with the outcome.

The industries’ trade groups are appealing, calling the measures costly and premature. They are challenging the government officials’ online votes, saying the new voters were unfairly recruited and go against what committee members and in-person voters decided.

“The developers … they clearly wanted our point of view to be dismissed,” said Stacey Miller, the sustainability program

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The climate battle quietly raging this week about US homes

Some challenges to US climate action are obvious – like when Donald Trump boasts about leaving the international Paris agreement and rolling back pollution rules.



a group of people in a garden: Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

But many more play out behind the scenes. One of those is the battle over efforts to make America’s new homes and buildings more energy-efficient.

Related: Carbon capture ‘moonshot’ moves closer, as billions of dollars pour in

On one side are the city and state officials trying to go greener, and on the other are real estate developers and the natural gas industry.

The International Code Council, which like the World Series largely concerns Americans, met this week on updating the baseline codes that most states and cities adopt for new buildings. The council is reviewing about two dozen proposals that would, for example, require builders to install electrical outlets near gas stoves that may one day be replaced with electric ones; and to wire enough power to garages where people may one day want to plug in electric cars.



a group of people in a garden: Ssuburban houses in Paramus, New Jersey. In the US, the energy used in buildings accounts for more than one-third of heat-trapping emissions.


© Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA
Ssuburban houses in Paramus, New Jersey. In the US, the energy used in buildings accounts for more than one-third of heat-trapping emissions.

In the US, the energy used in buildings accounts for more than one-third of heat-trapping emissions, and reducing those emissions is key to the nation’s climate progress.

With the stakes high, climate advocates last year launched a campaign to make sure that more climate-minded officials – the ones that set energy and environment rules, in addition to those who enforce code – were involved in the normally obscure process.

The plan worked, and a slate of efficiency measures was approved.

Developers and gas utilities have not been pleased with the outcome.

The industries’ trade groups are appealing, calling the measures costly

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Small homes made of Maine materials could boost economy, aid climate, council says

The Maine Climate Council has suggested a strategy that draws on the potential for constructing fuel efficient, modestly priced homes with locally sourced wood to help address the state’s affordable housing shortage while boosting the economy.



a truck is parked on the side of a building


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Sustainably harvested wood – particularly when transport is minimal – is more sensible when compared with steel and concrete, which have a denser carbon footprint, Stephen Shaler, associate director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine, told the Maine Monitor.

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Using locally sourced wood to build homes could expand job opportunities in construction, design and forest products, revitalize former mill towns, help trade school programs and strengthen university research and development, the climate council reported.

While Maine is known for producing traditional hardwood from spruce and pine, engineered wood like laminated strand lumber is a newer industry. Wood fiber insulation manufacturing is on track to begin by 2022. A nanocellulose alternative to sheetrock also is in the early stages of development.

In collaboration with Downeast Maine Community Partners, students recently constructed a “tiny” 560-square-foot house for a Millbridge resident. The project helped explore the feasibility of producing similar structures on a broader scale, the Maine Monitor reported.

Plans are now underway to build affordable zero-energy modular (ZEM) homes, made from local wood products, at the former Great Northern mill site in Millinocket – now the One Katahdin multiuse industrial park.

Consultants with the L3C firm Material Research have signed a memorandum of understanding with Our Katahdin – a nonprofit economic development group – for a ZEM home factory that annually could build up to 500 homes that range from 600 to 1,000 square feet.

Caroline Pryor, co-founder of Material Research, told the Maine Monitor the typical price point for

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