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Utah's Largest Homebuilder Sets New Energy-Efficiency Example

Two inches might not sound like much. But when you’re the states’ largest home-builder and you’re adding two extra inches of insulation to the outside walls of all the new homes you’re building, it adds up to big energy savings – and less air pollution.

James Jonsson, construction manager for Ivory Homes, says 6-inch thick walls are now standard for his company. By making the change, Utah’s largest homebuilder is making energy-efficiency a selling point -- and it’s helping clean up the air in the long run.

“Utah energy code right now still allows a 2-by-4 wall frame, but we decided 2016 was the year to take it up to the next level,” he says. “We’re doing it because we want to build the best home we possibly can for our consumers.”

High-efficiency features like these don’t just benefit the people who live in these homes. They’ll also help improve air quality outside. That’s because day-to-day pollution from homes and business buildings is expected in a few decades to become the single biggest source of pollutants blamed for winter inversions. Bob Grow, CEO of the planning think tank, Envision Utah, says Utahns see making buildings more efficient as a way to improve quality of life.

“I think Utahns are going to get a real bargain, because their homes are going to save them money on the energy side,” he says. “More importantly, they’re going to reduce the emissions, which means we’re all breathing cleaner air.”

Grow says other builders are likely to follow Ivory’s lead. He says it’s an example of the private sector driving change -- a change that environmental advocates have been pushing for unsuccessfully.

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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