Build California Better: Long Term Transportation Funding Options
Like the roads and bridges we drive on, our state’s transportation financing policy is in a state of collapse.
In Washington, DC, legislators went down to the wire to temporarily rescue the Highway Trust Fund, the primary source for financing this country’s highway and mass transit improvements. The rescue is only a stop-gap measure; the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money again by next June. The Highway Trust Fund supports 50 percent of California’s Highway Capital Program.
If that weren’t bad enough, in California we face our own funding issues. The successful $20 billion Prop 1B bond program that financed many projects over the last few years has ended and Caltrans has projected a $290 billion shortfall through 2020 for the maintenance and expansion of the state’s roads and highways. Future state and federal revenue for transportation improvements is expected to drop by 40 percent, compared to the levels of the last five years.
So, here’s the dilemma: in order to grow our economy in a sustainable way, we need good roads and highways – to carry goods and our growing population. Roads need constant maintenance and, as our population grows, more cars use those roads, traffic patterns change and require new road solutions. How do we pay for them?
“Build California Better,“ a white paper just released by ACEC California, addresses this issue and looks at alternative paths California may take to keep our roads and highways in the condition needed to support further economic growth.
Key to the issue is understanding the state gas tax, which was conceived to help finance road maintenance and improvements. Gas tax revenue however, hasn’t kept pace with inflation and is actually on the decline as more Californians drive vehicles with greater fuel efficiency or, increasingly, no dependence on gas at all: in 2010 there were just two models of electric car on the market, today there are more than 20.
So, an increase in the gas tax – viewed as political suicide by many – isn’t even a long term guarantee that the state will take in more revenue. As more Californians adopt hybrid or electric technology, fewer will purchase gas.
It’s time for some ‘outside-the-box’ thinking on this issue. The purpose of “Build California Better” is to promote that kind of thinking, enhance discussion and, hopefully, encourage our state’s politicians and visionaries to deliver a long term, sustainable funding plan for our transportation infrastructure.
Look out for September's Construction Global magazine, which examines America's infrastructure problems and the new Build America Investment Initiative that seeks to address them.
International Code Council focuses on energy efficiency
The International Code Council has released a new framework to assist governments and building industry stakeholders in meeting energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction goals.
The Code Council Board of Directors, which consists of 18 government code officials who were elected by their peers, adopted the framework, Leading the Way to Energy Efficiency: A Path Forward on Energy and Sustainability to Confront a Changing Climate.
This framework includes using the Code Council’s American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved standards process to update the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).
Future editions of the IECC will build on prior successes including an increase of efficiency requirements by about 40%, or an average of 8% a cycle from 2006 to 2021, allowing the IECC to remain a strong avenue for communities to reach their energy efficiency and sustainability goals globally.
With the base 2021 IECC efficiency requirements just 10% away from net zero for residential buildings, under the new framework future editions of the IECC will increase base efficiency using a balancing test proposed in bipartisan legislation that has cleared the US House and Senate and has been supported by energy efficiency advocates and the building industry.
The IECC will be developed under a revised scope and be part of a portfolio of greenhouse gas reduction solutions that could address electric vehicles, electrification and decarbonization, integration of renewable energy and energy storage, existing buildings performance standards and more.
The Code Council’s new framework will also provide optional requirements aimed at achieving net zero energy buildings presently and by 2030. Using a tiered approach, the framework offers adopting jurisdictions a menu of options, from a set of minimum requirements to pathways to net zero energy and additional greenhouse gas reduction policies.
The Code Council has also announced the establishment of an Energy and Carbon Advisory Council which will consist of governmental and industry leaders to inform the Code Council’s efforts.
The Energy and Carbon Advisory Council will advise on which additional greenhouse gas reduction policies the IECC should integrate, the pace that the IECC’s baseline efficiency requirements should advance, plus needs and gaps that the Code Council should work to address. The Code Council will begin outreach to fill the Energy and Carbon Advisory Council in March.
Focus on climate and energy efficiency globally
The Use of Climate Data and Assessment of Extreme Weather Event Risks in Building Codes Around the World was published last month.
Climate data is frequently only updated on a 10-year cycle on average, so as weather becomes more severe from year to year, the underlying data simply does not accurately reflect the risk to the building of these extreme weather-related events. International Codes are updated on a three-year cycle.
Climate change, coupled with net zero emission targets, is focusing minds to act faster.
From the end of this year, all new buildings in Singapore will face higher minimum energy performance requirements, according to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA). It will raise the minimum energy performance requirements for new buildings and existing buildings that undergo major retrofit, to be 50% and 40% more energy efficient respectively, compared with 2005 levels. The city state aims to 'green' 80% of buildings by 2030.
The Net Zero Home standard developed by CCG (Scotland) is intended to deliver a standard of specification that reduces greenhouse gas emissions arising from regulated operational energy use to a rate less than or equal to 0kg C02/m2/year.
A new construction products national regulator is imminent in the UK, in a bid to bolster standards following the Grenfell inquiry.