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Proposed building code regulations aim to reduce climate impact, but draw criticism from home builders

The North Carolina Building Code Council is considering tightening energy efficiency requirements for new homes and offices that could cut energy costs and help slow climate change. But at a public hearing yesterday, home builders fought the idea.

The council heard public comments on changes designed to bring North Carolina rules up to international standards. Walls, roofs, insulation, windows and heating and cooling systems would have to meet stricter requirements for energy efficiency. Rita Joyner is with the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and serves on the ad-hoc committee that drafted the rules. She says they would replace outdated ones based on 2009 standards.

"If I were to tell you I'm going to give you a cell phone, I'm going to give you a car, I'm going to give you anything that is of the 2009 standard, and you would say I don't want that," she said.

Home builders oppose the measure. They say it would add 20,000 dollars to the cost of an average-sized house and price many North Carolinians out of homeownership. But an Energy Department study for the council found the changes would save home and business owners on energy bills, especially as electric rates in North Carolina rise.

Supporters say the measure also would create jobs, improve air quality and help the state meet its climate goals. The council is expected to vote on the rules in June.