By Alan Gionet

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (CBS4) – The Louisville City Council Tuesday night voted to direct city staff members to draw up potential changes in its building codes in the wake of the Marshall Fire for future vote. The changes would roll back building codes to the 2018 codes in place well before the fire for those whose homes were lost in the blaze, possible with a three year time limit.

(credit: CBS)

Those codes based on the International Green Construction Code, were approved by the council as an update to the city’s building requirements first in 2018, calling for additional costs in construction including a great deal of insulation. Louisville also upped the codes in October of 2021, two months before the Marshall Fire to new 2021 IgCC building codes. But Louisville went further. The city also added that homes meet additional standards to make new housing “net-zero” in carbon emissions.
Approval of a rollback is not certain.

“If somebody’s house burns down next week, well we’re going to say you have to build to the 2021 codes and we’re not going to give you any incentives. And I’m very uncomfortable with that,” said council member Maxine Most.

But other council members have indicated they favor a rollback after listening to residents who say the costs of meeting the updated codes and energy use requirements are too expensive, especially with many of them discovering they are underinsured and challenged in rebuilding. The city gathered estimates of the costs of meeting the updated codes over what was in place prior to October with the 2018 codes. It found the extra cost for the construction of an average 2,800 square foot home was about $20,000, but at least $7500 could be offset with Xcel Energy programs.

An image from Tuesday night’s Louisville City Council meeting (credit: CBS)

“They’re concerned that the numbers that we’ve provided them with may not get them where we say we’re going to get them. If you put that in their hands, if all of what we say is true, they will make that decision. We don’t have to shove it down their throats,” said council member Chris Leh.

Some homeowners claimed the estimates they were hearing for complying with the net-zero building requirements instead of the 2018 building codes were running well over $50,000. The Home Builders Association of Metro Denver put the figure at close to $100,000 dollars, but some green building experts said it was far lower, even potentially less than the city’s $20,000 figure.

Any move toward changing codes would have to be in a vote posted with proper public notice ahead of time, so the council could not vote on the issue Tuesday night. The council has it’s next public meeting scheduled the first Tuesday in April, which it also moved to have in-person again as Colorado shows more improvement in the COVID pandemic.

Alan Gionet