News Analysis

Albuquerque Lawsuit Threatens Green Building Codes

The Energy Conservation Code of Albuquerque, New Mexico, enacted in January 2008 with the unanimous support of its city council, seeks to increase energy-efficiency requirements for multifamily and commercial buildings by 30%. The code requires more insulation in single-family houses, outlaws electric water heaters, and imposes high efficiency standards for heating and cooling equipment. The City’s new High Performance Buildings Ordinance covers similar ground.

A group of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) contractors and distributors sought negotiations with the city to revise portions of the code. In response, the city delayed implementation of the code until July 1, 2008. The negotiations failed, however, and the group, supported by the national Air-conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), filed suit; this may be the first such legal action against a green building program in the U.S.

“Those of us who know the marketplace—the equipment manufacturers, dealers, and installers—have discovered that when minimum standards are raised beyond the point at which they are economically justifiable, it results in more repairs and fewer replacements of older, less efficient equipment, therefore saving no energy,” AHRI president Stephen Yurek said. The group’s main agrument against the code, however, was that its requirements for HVAC equipment are illegal because they violate Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which gives supremacy to federal law over state or local law.

Published November 24, 2008 Permalink