Category Archives: Uncategorized

March 21 Updates

I have heroes helping me! Check them out here and thank them please. We have helpful new posts under “Home Rebuilding”. With their help and others we were also able to assemble this cost calculator for you. It will help you figure out your cost for code compliance (hint: you’ll be making money) as well as review code updates back through 1990 for your insurance claim documentation. Astonishingly, the insurance industry did not yet have such a tool.

Speaking of code compliance, let’s talk about what’s good about these energy codes: They prevent climate change, war, greed, wildfires, and they prevent smoke. Yes, it’s true. We have a first hand account of someone who lives in a well-sealed house built to IECC 2021-rc, almost Passive House, standards, who was able to live in his house directly after the fires while his neighbors had to mitigate for smoke damage. So yes, these building codes prevent you having to breathe and mitigate smoke. More on this and similar topics here.

Speaking of code compliance cost, last week I contacted the local Homebuilders’ Association regarding the letter they put out with their estimates for the 2021 IECC compliance (which are wildly high). An administrator spoke with me and informed me that they have no documentation of those estimates. But she offered for their president to call me to explain. I am still awaiting his call.

Also last week, I reached out to Boulder Creek Neighborhoods because I was so excited about their low, low quotes for rebuilding. I wanted to find out how they’re planning to comply with potential current and future IECC 2021 energy code requirements. Since they’re an established local developer who has even settled into our Main Street with an office, I figured they must have a plan for this at the very least for the near future. I have not heard back, but I do hope they check out the handy builder resources we put together, and that the City of Louisville and Boulder County are planning. Boulder Creek Neighborhoods, we want to help you get our neighbors into new homes affordably.

I’ve updated a few things in my candid timeline, now archived here: Candid Advice from an Architect. Just my two cents more: Labor shortages and materials supply issues are still very real problems. These are problems none of us can solve singlehandedly. So, this is all the more reason to slow down and take control of your own situation, make sure your family is happy, make sure you’re happy. And… think about building a little smaller to control costs. Small is beautiful. More inspiration here.

March 9 Updates

by Aide Fitch

Some quick updates:

  • The net zero portion of the IECC 2021 energy code has not been thoroughly, properly priced yet. But I’m going to have something together very soon, and based on conversations I’ve had with people more expert than me, and preliminary analysis I’ve done, it’ll still be within reach of being free to those who have 10% “law and order” or “code compliance” extensions on their insurance, not to mention all the other giveaways I’ve discussed. I am double checking the report presented to the City of Louisville by Group 14 Engineers, going back through some of the numbers with the engineers and builders, and will report here what I find. But I’ll also put together my own model and real numbers from local materials suppliers.
  • Anyone in Louisville who has their insurance “law and order” or “code compliance” extension is in danger of not being able to get all those funds if the City does indeed provide an opt-out from the new energy code. As discussed, the code (including net zero) is going to cost somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000 depending on how you calculated other incentives, which is within that extension coverage for many folks. But you won’t get that cash or that value if the code isn’t required.
  • Some say: “But my coverage is lower than that” or “I don’t have law and order coverage, wouldn’t the code hurt me?” My answer is no, I don’t think so. There is a lot of charitable money cropping up interested in buying down our carbon. Why? Because the earth is burning and lots of people care. So, if you’re not totally covered for this good energy code, it’s very likely you’ll still get it paid for you, and it’s even more likely you’ll get that money if you allow your neighbors who have coverage to get their paid for by their insurance. That will allow the pie of charitable money to go further and help those with less coverage. I realize this is a chicken egg problem: this is all happening too fast for anyone to feel secure with such promises. I am hoping the City of Louisville is solving that somehow.  I’m trying to help by firming up those cost numbers. Also if you ARE one of those people who has very low or no coverage for the code, please reach out to me by DM or email.  I can connect you with one of a variety of funding sources.
  • Some say: “But I heard that I’d be using up that extension already on all the previous code updates going back in time to 1990.” Not true. I’ve spoken with multiple insurance experts, estimators, and energy experts. I’ve done the analysis myself looking back at previous code documents, talking with my structural engineer and others to dig up any significant update costs, and they all total a small fraction of this amount. I’ll be posting a calculator here soon for ALL these code updates going back in time, with real materials costs you can check yourself and plug into your own square footage.
  • If you have a tight budget for your rebuild, Boulder Creek Neighborhoods is now quoting $200-240 per square foot for their cute homes with a rough unfinished basement (about $75,000 gets you the complete basement). This is amazing and the perfect solution for those on a tight budget. Thank you Boulder Creek. I’ll be checking with them this week about energy code compliance and will report here.
  • I have some volunteers who will now be helping contribute their expertise to the Home Rebuilding page! Hooray! More soon…

March 5 updates

Please see the Site Coordination page for timely new information.

Also, news on house purchase ALE coverage: You might consider using your ALE coverage to pay a mortgage on an investment house you can buy and live in while waiting for your house reconstruction. That way you can get free equity in an investment! I did this and just had my ALE coverage approved to cover my monthly mortgage payment (including principal, interest, taxes, and insurance), plus additional coverage for an office rental, since my new home is half the size and no longer contains a home office. (Note that there will be some income tax consequences for this. But the equity, and not to mention peace of mind, is a huge net win.)

And, news here about the City of Louisville Energy Code. Most importantly: With rebates and discounts, and now new charitable donations materializing, you will surely end up getting all this for free. With the new ordinance that is being written to grant an “opt out” option for fire victims, there is a great effort to try to also make sure those that do not opt out can still use their insurance extension. The law requires that we all were offered an insurance extension that covers up additional costs due to code upgrades. For most of us that’ll be about 10% of our structure claim, or $40,000-$50,000, which easily covers the costs outlined above, PLUS any other code upgrades, such as negligible $1000 cost of the 2018 code, and similar costs for previous code upgrades. But, if there is no code requirement, you lose that free money. Insurance WON’T give you that $50,000 if your code upgrades are not required. So, while it does look like other sources (utility rebates, manufacturer discounts, and charitable donations) will indeed step up to cover this gap, it’d be even better if we could all use the insurance money, and then use the charitable offers for even more better things. We should all hope that the ordinance is able to achieve this for us.