Frisco Code Sets a New Standard for Efficiency: City is First to Make Builders Follow EPA Program

By Ian McCann, Published 05-03-2001 The Dallas Morning News

FRISCO - It's springtime, and Frisco is starting to show its green.

On Tuesday, the fast-growing Collin County city became the first in the nation to require that all new homes meet federal Energy Star efficiency standards.  The City Council also adopted far-reaching measures to encourage water conservation, recycling and improved indoor air quality in every new home.

Frisco officials say the measures are aimed in part at making sure the largely unbuilt city remains attractive to home buyers and livable for its 33,700 residents.

"The primary benefit will be for the 80 percent that is not yet developed," said Mayor Kathy Seei.  "But as many of our families grow out of their homes, they're selling their homes in Frisco and moving to other homes in Frisco.  This is one piece in a continuous string of things to be sure we get quality building here."

Sam Rashkin, national director of the Energy Star homes program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, agreed.

"It means more of the consumers than it means for the EPA," Mr. Rashkin said of Frisco's Energy Star decision.  "They can save on utility bills, cut pollution and have higher resale values.  Frisco has really stepped forward on this."

City officials estimate that the average home cost could increase by about $1,500 to $3,000.  But they say those costs would most probably be offset by savings on utility bills.  Energy Star homes use up to 30 percent less energy than homes built under older standards, according to the EPA.

The city worked with a group of homebuilders to create the plan, and homebuilders have been generally supportive of it, Frisco senior planner Jeff Witt said.

Paul Cauduro, manager of governmental relations for the Homebuilders' Association of Greater Dallas, said the group supports energy conservation but believes a more flexible ordinance would have been better.

"Energy Star is just one option for providing a set of standards," Mr. Cauduro told the council Tuesday.

Mr. Witt said the council chose Energy Star because it lets builders choose from a range of energy conservation measures, such as high-efficiency windows, insulation and air conditioners, to meet the efficiency standards.

"You set a minimum performance standard they have to meet," he said.  "How a builder gets there is up to them."

Once the residential program is operating, city staff will recommend that standards be adopted for commercial and other public buildings in the city, Mr. Witt said.

At least part of the energy efficiency portion of Frisco's plan could be helped by a program sponsored by TXU Corp.  The company will provide inspections to ensure that homes comply with the Energy Star requirements.  The utility will pay to certify 4,000 homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including homes in its Frisco service area.

Frisco's plan incorporates more than just energy efficiency.  The city also will require improved venting systems, insulation and ductwork to reduce pollutants and allergens in indoor air.

Another portion of the ordinance will require builders to recycle scrap wood and brick from construction sites and to provide the option to have built-in recycling bins and composting systems.  Builders must also offer drought-resistant landscaping and equip irrigation systems with rain and freeze sensors.

2001 The Dallas Morning News