Mayor John Cooper has signed an ordinance that moves Nashville a decade ahead in sustainability.
Legislation advanced by Mayor Cooper’s administration (BL2020-458) substantially updates Metro’s building codes and energy standards, which previously relied on 2012 model codes with guidelines dating as far back as 2009.
The new upgrades significantly improve energy efficiency while reducing the environmental impact of building design and construction and strengthen home construction requirements for tornado resistance.
“Our homes, just like Nashville itself, require investments and modernized standards to operate more efficiently and more cost-effectively,” Cooper said. “When those improvements not only lower home energy costs, but also reduce the city’s carbon footprint and further protect homeowners, it makes even more sense to adopt them.”
Cooper thanked local construction, home efficiency, architecture and design professionals, as well as members of the Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, who worked to support the ordinance.
He also recognized Metro Council co-sponsors Colby Sledge, Tom Cash, Brett Withers, Freddie O’Connell, Kathleen Murphy, Ginny Welsch, Burkley Allen, Sean Parker, Emily Benedict, Tonya Hancock, Brandon Taylor, Angie Henderson, Delishia Porterfield, Erin Evans, and Zulfat Suara.
Tennessee’s energy production costs are among the nation’s lowest, yet average residential electric bills in Tennessee are higher than most (the result of poor energy use and insulation standards). Furthermore, lower-income residents are more vulnerable to higher utility costs that result from inefficient building standards.
Cooper’s measure is designed to reduce energy use by up to 30%, providing net lifetime savings of $8,034 for every single-family dwelling unit, according to analysis by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Cooper’s legislation is also seen as a way to attract investment.As cities compete for businesses that set their own carbon reduction goals, the adoption of energy-efficient building codes has emerged as a key technique for attracting industry, according to Michael P. Vandenbergh, professor and co-director of the Energy, Environment and Land Use Program at Vanderbilt University Law School and a recent appointee to Nashville’s Electric Power Board.
Cooper’s measure also raises the threshold for tornado and high-wind resistance from 90 miles per hour to 115.
The Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, formed in 2019, continues to work on broad recommendations.