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Advocates Promote Energywise Buildings for Air Quality

Steve Thon works for Provident Energy, and he’s showing off an exterior wall in a highly efficient home at the Daybreak development.

“You see all this foam,” says Thon.”That air sealing – that’s where all the hot and the cold is leaving your house, going to the outside.”

Air-quality advocates have been talking a lot lately about cutting pollution from buildings. They say constructing more efficient buildings is the way to do that.

So, Thon’s checklist for certifying a building’s efficiency includes everything from the light bulbs here to the utilities, could prove more valuable than simply saving  Utahns nearly $1 billion over the next generation. The energy-wise features could also help Utahns in another important way, since they cut pollution emissions from the buildings themselves. Kevin Emerson tracks policy and regulations for the advocacy group Utah Clean Energy.

“We’re seeing more and more that new homes, existing homes, commercial buildings – the whole building sector is going to play a more important role in our air-quality issue,” Emerson says, “and this is an important strategy to lock in those energy savings and reduced air emissions.”

It could mean almost 5 million tons less air pollution, Emerson says, if future homes are built to updated standards. Governor Gary Herbert’s Energy Advisor supports moving in that direction now, as does Herbert’s Clean Air Action Team.

But a legislative panel approved a billin June to slow down the adoption of new building codes in Utah. Lawmakers could vote on it as soon as September. 

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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