Friday, January 20, 2023 by Nina Hernandez
Austin’s building code may soon include updated provisions concerning electric vehicles and electric readiness for new construction.
The city’s Resource Management Commission voted at its Jan. 17 meeting to recommend City Council initiate a public stakeholder process to develop rules for the vehicles and the electrical infrastructure needed to charge them.
Increasing electric vehicle use has been identified by the city as a way of reducing carbon emissions, and Austin Energy encourages residents to buy EVs.
The resolution recommends City Council direct Development Services and Austin Energy to initiate the required stakeholder process to update Austin’s Energy Conservation Code to include an Electric Ready amendment to the residential code, as well as an Electric Vehicle Ready amendment to the residential and commercial codes.
Electric Ready includes outfitting a property with the proper wiring and electric service to accommodate future electric vehicle charging.
The resolution states that the “electrification of buildings and transportation, paired with renewable electricity production are highly effective strategies for addressing the climate crisis and outdoor and indoor air pollution.” It also notes that it’s more cost effective than retrofitting. “Studies show homes and buildings that are built electric-ready provide the necessary electrical infrastructure at significantly reduced costs to the building owner,” the resolution states.
At the commission’s Nov. 15 meeting, Kurt Stogdill, Austin Energy’s interim director for energy efficiency services, explained the utility had conducted stakeholder discussions and surveys concerning multiple avenues for implementing the new policy, including ordinances, incentives, education and rebates. From that initial engagement, ordinance was the overwhelming favorite strategy.
Austin’s current building code doesn’t include language outlining standards for EVs. The city adopts International Building Codes, which are updated on a three-year cycle. The last cycle was published in 2021, and the final version did not include any language regarding EVs. An earlier version did, but it had been removed on appeal. Austin adopted that version of the language without pursuing any amendments with regard to EVs in 2022.
“We opted to move forward with the ’21 code largely as it was, and agreed to move forward with broader community discussion around these topics, and then to come back with proposed direction after those discussions,” Stogdill said.
But according to Stogdill, the 2024 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code is due to be finalized in late summer or early fall, and it is currently slated to include provisions for EV and electric-ready. Stogdill said this time the provisions appear to have broad support and seem unlikely to be removed again.
The resolution recommends the city implement the changes by Sept. 1.
Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.
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