Home News Real Estate Industry Urges D.C. To Slow Down On Requiring All-Electric Buildings

Real Estate Industry Urges D.C. To Slow Down On Requiring All-Electric Buildings

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For several years Washington DC one of the most forward looking cities For US green building codes, it also has a dirty secret: The gas line that fuels the DC building’s power and cooking elements is leaking. more more than any state in the country.

These conflicting realities have helped fuel two moves by the DC Council and institutions behind the scenes to end the use of natural gas in new commercial buildings. But the real estate industry is encouraging districts to put the brakes on.

Bisnow/John Bannister

Solar panels on the roof of 20 M St. SE at Lerner Enterprises in Washington DC

Organizations representing DC real estate owners and businesses are urging stakeholders to work together by waiving the requirement to develop new buildings with all-electric infrastructure. They argued that the costs would be too burdensome, and strict regulations would discourage developers and tenants from doing business in the district.

“We’re not going silent, so our voices will be heard,” said Eric Jones, vice president for government affairs at the Metropolitan Washington Association of Apartment and Office Buildings. [our concerns] We’re working on it, but it’s a wait-and-see process as we haven’t really seen much change. ”

Changes that angered people Aoba, DC Building Industry Association, the Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Association and others are part of a series of updates to the building energy code set that will be finalized on October 20 and adopted next year as part of DC’s three-year code cycle. AOBA said it had repeatedly asked for clarification that the changes would not apply to building renovations, but had not received the assurances it sought.

Changes that also require electric vehicle charging capabilities and onsite renewable energy capacity will come after the DC Council. passed it Laws this summer similarly require new commercial buildings to be all-electric by 2026.

Exemptions are expected for certain medical facilities and commercial kitchens. Advisors to the Construction Code Coordinating Committee, which is overseeing the change, are also considering exemptions for certain university buildings and fire stations.

DC authorities passed a law encouraging the city to switch to 100% renewable energy. by 2032 achieve carbon neutrality by 2045These deadlines put pressure on the district to phase out natural gas to buildings, which in 2020 accounted for about 72% of DC’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The technical advisory group working on clean energy plans, which includes members of the public and private sectors, has a surprising level of involvement in the process, which is usually kept out of the public eye, he said. I’m here. Annika LandrenaudGlobal Director of Sustainable Design hook Architects and advisors working on code changes.

With that scrutiny, advisors are considering encouraging transitions to a DC environment without leaving certain buildings or tenants behind, so careful consideration should be given.


Bisnow/Jacob Wallace

Anica Landreneau of HOK speaking at a panel at the Bisnow event on August 18, 2022.

“People get in their lane and do things the way they always do, but it’s very difficult to deviate from typical practices,” says Landreneau. “What we don’t want to do is have the building owners run their assets aground in just a few years.”

A letter sent to the CCCB by interested parties on 17 August read: Bissnow Members of the private sector presented challenges they said they would face with all-electric building codes. They point to the rising costs of building affordable homes and office-to-home conversions, the challenges for commercial kitchens to adopt induction stoves, and the loss of multifamily amenities such as grills and fire pits. This is my main concern.

“The ultimate impact of a natural gas ban will undoubtedly stifle new construction, raise energy costs for existing homes and businesses, and make the district less economically competitive,” the letter read.

Catalin Peteris also vice president of government affairs at AOBA, and said her organization has been working for months to include the requested exemptions in the new code language.

“We try very hard to be really involved in some part of the process that can make a difference and have our comments taken into account,” said Peter. “We have had so many bad experiences of waiting until the public comment period that the cake was already baked by that point, so we tried to be as proactive as possible. doing.”

But proponents of the code change say Washington, D.C. buildings have been quietly approaching electrification for some time, and allowing too many exemptions could render the code useless in facilitating the energy transition. I am concerned that there is

“If you drill too many holes, it’s no longer cord,” says Landreneau. “I try not to open the gate too wide.”

Energy performance standards for district buildings require existing buildings to become more efficient over time, and DC regulations phased in over the past few years have increasingly encouraged solar adoption is, Strongest incentive program Regarding the installation of solar panels in Japan.

Meanwhile, gas power is expected to become more expensive as forward-thinking building owners electrify themselves, Landreneau said. This could encourage a switch to cheaper all-electric renewables, or increase the risk of becoming a kind of “stranded asset” where energy costs are too high, as Landrenaud alluded to.

At the same time, a pair of studies were conducted initially by environmental groups When then verify A study commissioned by Washington, DC’s Department of Energy and Environment found methane leaking from the area’s natural gas infrastructure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide.


Heat map showing fugitive methane emissions measured from a study commissioned by DC Energy and Environment.

According to a report commissioned by DOEE, natural gas lines lost about 6.2% of all natural gas flowing under the district in 2019, costing gas customers $24 million and reducing air quality. , undermined efforts to decarbonize the district. The report found that DC has the highest rate of gas loss of any state in the United States.

Rather than spending $3 billion to $4.5 billion over the next 30 years to strengthen DC’s natural gas lines, the report found that the district and washington gas You should save money and move away from fossil fuels instead.

“Going into the commercial core of the city, where this code primarily affects, what we want is not to build new gas lines in new construction,” Landrenault said. “Hopefully they will start to cut down on the network significantly and decommission much of that network over time.”

These tailwinds are driving commercial construction to adopt the types of technology needed for buildings to become all-electric. This is consistent with his Mr. Landreneau coding philosophy. She believes that change must be both advanced enough to move the industry forward and savvy enough not to require change without economic options.

Landrenaud and other sustainable energy advocates believe the code language under consideration solves the problem.

Theresa Backhus, director of the Building Innovation Hub, is helping building owners adopt efficiency upgrades to meet DC’s rising building energy performance standards. decision demand LEED certification 2006 for public and private buildings.

“There’s been a lot of debate and discussion and questions about whether this is really worth it,” Backhus said. “Look where we are now.”

That alone wouldn’t be enough to soothe real estate heartburn. While this Code Cycle mandates only a full electrical system for new construction, separate legislation passed by the DC Council still requires major renovations of existing buildings to include electrification. You may

The latest changes to the code have also encouraged commercial buildings to consider energy storage technology, but many say it is too new, expensive and inefficient to be viable in many commercial buildings. is saying

“We have a situation where we have a very strong environmental community that is pushing environmental standards at times without thinking about the actual impact on real estate,” Jones said.


Bisnow/Jacob Wallace

Shannon Capra of AKF Group, Anika Landrenaud of HOK, Julia Siple of Quinn Evans, Jamie Sweigert of Hi Concrete, Yolanda Cole of Hickok Cole and Dayton Schroter of Smith Group at Bisnow on August 18, 2022. I will be speaking on a panel at the Architecture & Design Summit.

Locally, Montgomery County again consider the bill All new construction and major renovations require electrification. The move should allay concerns that Washington, D.C. will lose business to neighboring countries, he said. dayton schlaterVice President and Design Director smith group.

Schroeter, who was not involved in the code making process but has researched all-electric projects in the DC area, points out Virginia as well. recently greenlit It is the country’s largest offshore wind farm and paves the way for a larger renewable energy market in the state.

He expects Virginia and other states to switch off gas just behind DC as renewable energy sources get cheaper.

“DC has been on the cutting edge of pushing these standards, and I think these standards will really permeate and make an impact,” said Schroeter. “We know the storm is coming and we must prepare.”

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