A few weeks ago, I stood before Boise’s City Council and mayor for the first time, to give a public comment and let them know I fully supported their effort to update building codes.
As a senior at Boise High School, I was a little anxious about stepping out in front of city leaders, especially so in a room full of seasoned energy experts and advocates. But I was confident in my resolve that city leadership would listen to what young folks like myself think about decisions that will affect the future. I stepped up and asked them to support this initiative.
I saw the adoption of the 2015 international building code suite as an example of how the city could leverage its enormous power to implement citywide mandates to build a more sustainable future, in spite of inaction on the state level. Boise is a city — a leader that can wield influence to help bring everyone in our community into the benefits of energy efficiency and wider solutions to stop climate change.
I know the cleanest, cheapest and safest way to meet our electricity needs is by getting the most out of the energy we already use. The built environment accounts for roughly 40 percent of energy use in the United States, and as a result the building sector is a major contributor to carbon emissions and global climate change.
Building codes govern up to 80 percent of a building’s energy load. It is also the most cost effective step, as it is far more expensive to retrofit for efficiency than it is to adopt the most current standards and best practices. Ensuring that the most efficient construction is the baseline for future building is a critical step to begin addressing the climate disrupting pollution associated with our electricity use here in Boise.
I am happy to report that on Dec. 19, our City Council adopted the updated building codes, ensuring that future building and remodels in Boise will have the least impact on our energy system, save money and reduce future pollution. I agree with the analysis of our city leaders that these codes are about more than buildings. They’re about building a community that will be resilient, well into the future.
Before the final vote, one comment by a City Council member did a wonderful job of summing up my feelings. “This is about protecting the interests of all of our citizens and homeowners … renters and everyone else as we think about the houses that are coming … as we rapidly grow in the city in the next 10 to 20 years,” said President Pro Tem Lauren McLean.
So I want to say thank you to all of my city leaders who made this change happen. I also urge you to join me. It is decisions and leadership like this that are going to make all the difference in the years to come, in ensuring every member of our community can live in an affordable, safe, clean and livable environment.
Therese Etoka was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is a senior at Boise High School. As president of the Boise High Humanitarian Club, she works with refugees, immigrants and ELL students. As a leader in the Climate Justice League, she works with the Idaho Chapter Sierra Club on climate change.