Several of my fellow realtors at Sotheby’s International Realty here in Jackson Hole, Wyoming have asked me about the energy migitagation fees that went into effect for Teton County, Wyoming in January 2010.. So I decided to do some research into the background and reasons for these fees. So here we go.
Teton County, like most all county governments, uses as its primary source of building codes the International Building Code, which merges a number of US building codes including the former “BOCA Code”. Within this code are The International Residential Code and the International Energy Conservation Code that contain specifications designed to conserve energy.
One way the codes achieve the goal of energy efficiency is by specifying certain parameters that include “wiggle room”. For example, in the case of fenestration, or openings in the building envelope such as doors and windows, the code states that they shall be no more than 30% of the floor area. In a 1000 square foot structure, this means you are allowed 300 sq. feet of such openings. That is actually a lot of window and door area. And, of course, this area increases with square footage. However, the 30% rule is not hard and fast. For example, more window area is allowed if low “E” (emissifity) glass is used to offset the loss in energy that results wherever there are openings in the walls, or envelope, of the building.
Another way to achieve energy efficiency goals is to assess fees for new construction or additions to family dwellings that can be offset by energy saving additions or improvements, such as a super insulated thermal envelope that includes low “E” windows or increased insulation in the attic space. Teton County (but not the Town of Jackson) adopted such a fee schedule in July 2009 from the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code Amendments, and has made it effective Jan. 21, 2010. You can find this Section 108 – Fees by going online to www.tetonwyo.org. Once you reach this website then follow this chain: agencies and services/building/building/building, electrical and fire codes/amendment to the 2006 IECC. The good news is that you can literally offset many, if not all, of the fees by the energy savings steps outlined.
So what does this mean to the future value of real estate and real estate sales in Jackson Hole? On the one hand, existing homes and commercial buildings in the county are not affected by these energy efficiency regulations and fees until additions or remodels are undertaken. So you might say, this real estate is more desireable and hence more valuable. On the other hand, new or existing structures that incorporate energy efficient features are less expensive to operate and maintain, have healthier and more comfortable indoor environments, plus help sustain a healthy outdoor environment for everything around the structure.
In the short run, and on the surface, the structures built under older codes may appear to be the “best deal”. In addition, within the next few years, building or remodeling real estate with green/sustainable features will probably continue to come at a 3-5% premium to conventional building methods. However, within one year increased energy costs from Lower Valley Energy may neutralize that premium. And within 5 to 10 years, green/sustainable features will be standard requirements and practices in any building project without extra cost. At that point, homes built under older codes may become dinosaurs that will be much harder to sell unless they have been upgraded with energy efficient and sustainable features.
As for the buyers of real estate, statistics show that the majority of home buyers is already savvy regarding green technologies and practices, and desires them for an improved quality of life and the mitigated impact on the environment. Therefore, our local and county officials are doing us all a favor by fostering a housing market that appeals to those who seek a sustainable lifestyle – one that fits so well with the existing quality of life and sensitivity to nature that currently exists among buyers and sellers of real estate in Jackson Hole.