Architects inspecting plans
KANSAS CITY, MO (April 25, 2024)

Amid the rising steel frames and freshly poured foundations of Kansas City’s bustling construction sites, a pressing debate has emerged over the true cost of building to the city’s newly updated energy code. While one vocal local professional association has recently been speaking publicly about staggering $30,000 average per-home cost increases due to updated building codes, ongoing code compliance work by building professionals partnered with Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) has revealed more grounded estimates of about $10,000 in increased costs. 

This stark contrast raises questions about the real economic impact of these codes on housing affordability, commercial building costs, and construction pace. Public complaints that the recent code update has led to a permits backlog and a construction slowdown do not tell the whole story. In fact, current codes provide builders and contractors with multiple shovel-ready paths to affordably meeting codes requirements. 

Most of the complaints are focused on only one choice for compliance — the strict Prescriptive Path. But that choice is not the only one. Metro-wide today, builders and contractors also use the Performance Path. This customizable option not only follows all recently updated building codes, it also has long provided an efficient and affordable way forward for new and existing construction projects. 

The Performance Path option was developed in earlier iterations of International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and is currently used by cities and counties across the metro and the state of Missouri. Projects use it to inexpensively tailor solutions that will achieve better Home Energy Rating System (HERS) scores. A building’s HERS score reflects its ability to affordably maintain good occupant health and comfort. 

Existing Homes Can and Do Meet Code

The Performance Compliance Path isn’t only for new construction. Builders and contractors often upgrade existing building stock that also must meet updated codes. Mary English, Program Manager for building sciences at MEC, explains the need for this additional focus. “The majority of the Kansas City region’s residential units are in buildings constructed before the latest energy standards were conceived — therefore, retrofitting existing homes is equally important to improve overall public health. And there are very robust federal funds available to help pay contractors to do this work both in new construction and retrofits.” 

Existing property renovation can be more cost-effective than new construction. Even for retrofit projects, the Performance Compliance Path provides a practical, affordable way forward for builders and contractors. By improving older homes, contractors in the Kansas City region can make significant strides toward improving public health, while achieving smaller building carbon footprints. 

Dual Approach Means Healthier Residents

Builders and contractors are Kansas City’s heroes when they build energy-compliant new buildings and upgrade existing ones. These structural experts can prevent future occupant health problems and increase indoor comfort levels. 

Energy efficient buildings lead to good health. This concept is now widely accepted in the healthcare industry. A recent joint study by MEC and Children’s Mercy Kansas City indicated that asthmatic children living in energy-efficient homes experienced significantly fewer asthma-related medical emergencies. When building standards are followed, Kansas City residents have healthier living environments and lower healthcare costs. 

“Contractors who use the Performance Path can achieve great building quality, which in turn reduces long-term building occupancy costs,” said Kelly Gilbert, Executive Director of MEC. “It’s a strategic approach to ensuring that Kansas City’s new and existing structures are affordable, energy efficient, and healthy for everyone.” 

About Metropolitan Energy Center:

Metropolitan Energy Center is a non-profit organization based in Missouri, established in 1983. Through community partnerships and business relationships, MEC supports energy conservation projects that build resource efficiency, environmental health, and economic vitality. The organization provides extensive resources about rebates, tax credits, and financial assistance to anyone looking to upgrade a property. They want to see the benefits of building performance accessible to all people.

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