Building Code Council Takes Aim at Natural Gas

Oct 24, 2022

natural gas

The Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) is planning to pass the country’s most stringent and most expensive package of building codes. At a series of hearings in late September and mid-October, members urged them to consider the high costs associated with these codes and their effect on homeownership in our state. A coalition of energy companies, unions, real estate professionals and others joined in voicing concern.  

Natural Gas on the Line

What’s at Stake?

Based on a membership poll and national data on the cost of electrifying homes, the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) estimates this code package will increase the price of a new home by a minimum of $24,070.

The proposals require heat pumps as the preferred source for space and water heating in all new homes, increasing the cost of a new home by $8,350. If adopted, home builders will lose the ability to cost-effectively install natural gas in new homes.

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“Absent the ability to service natural gas water heaters and furnaces in new housing, natural gas companies lack the incentive to run gas lines to new developments,” said BIAW President Joseph Irons in a news release issued before the hearings. “New homeowners are not only losing the benefit of a cost-effective and reliable heat source. They will now pay exponentially more to have a natural gas range or fireplace—if they can even have it at all.”

Existing homeowners will also have to upgrade their current HVAC systems to heat pumps if they increase the size of their original HVAC equipment. 

natural gas

Widespread Concerns

The proposals affect not only home prices. Energy officials have warned that the state’s energy grid cannot handle this new load, especially considering the state’s recent ban on new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. The state also lacks the trained electricians and other skilled workers needed to accommodate these mandates, and training can take years.

What Happens Next?

The SBCC will evaluate public comments on Oct. 21, then vote on code proposals Nov. 4 and possibly on Nov. 18 (as needed). Any adopted changes will go into effect on July 1, 2023.

If you’d like more information or to get more involved, please contact Policy and Research Manager Andrea Smith at (360) 352-7800 x 114 or andreas@biaw.com.