May 062008
Authors: Nick Hemenway

No one would be surprised if I were to say Boulder County is out-of-its-mind crazy, but this time they have really outdone themselves.

As we have seen on commercials and on posters around our own campus, if fiscal responsibility isn’t your bag of tricks, you can feel all warm and fuzzy inside by throwing money away into inefficient renewable energy sources, just as long as they are painted green. With our university seemingly following the rabbit down the hole, Boulder County felt they needed to step up their game.

Last Thursday, the county passed an ordinance as part of their BuildSmart program that may signal the end to residential pools and spas. The new regulations mandate that any outdoor energy use be 100 percent offset with on-site renewable energy generation.

This is a nearly impossible task in the cases of amenities such as pools and spas. In an interview with CBS4, contractors said a solar-power system to offset such features could be as much as $25,000 — which doesn’t take into consideration the space required.

This ordinance has pool installation companies fearing the end of their business in Boulder County.

However, the madness is not limited to pools and spas.

The BuildSmart program mandates extremely aggressive energy standards for all new houses being built.

Using a national rating system, homes must meet hard line energy ratings with mountains of red tape to verify it.

To receive a building permit, an energy model must be submitted detailing the house’s efficiency, followed by additional inspections. In order to receive a certificate of occupancy, the house must undergo additional blower door and duct blast tests to make sure no one is having any fun.

Adding regulations, especially unnecessary ones, in the middle of a housing slump is insane.

Kim Calomino, vice president of Technical and Regulatory Affairs for the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver, told the Boulder Daily Camera that the program’s impact goes far beyond pools and spas, saying they “could have the effect of shutting down home-building.”

So what do county officials have to say for themselves?

Peter Fogg, senior planner for the Boulder County Land Use Department, said claims by the program’s opponents (I like to call them thinkers) are overblown, asserting “We feel the regulations offer a lot of latitude for builders in trying to achieve those energy-efficiency standards.”

How this program actually offers builders anything remains a mystery. Webster defines latitude as the freedom of action or choice.

Regulations by their very nature limit freedoms.

Let homeowners decide for themselves how they wish to power their own homes.

In other news, I wanted to say a quick thank you to all my readers. I’ve had a blast writing for the past two years at the Collegian, though it has been a rollercoaster ride at times.

Whether you love me or you have contributed to my mountain of hate mail, I’m glad I was able to keep your attention away from Sudoku for at least a couple minutes each week.

Stay classy Fort Collins, I will miss you.

Nick Hemenway is a senior mechanical engineering major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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