What does Denver’s new building code mean for building residents, owners?

Denver Gazette | Alex Edwards

Despite a major push by foes of fossil-fired energy, Denver’s city council ultimately decided against requiring residents to electrify their homes under the newly adopted 2022 building, fire and green code.

Instead, the code changes — the first of three planned updates staggered through 2027 — will apply to commercial and multifamily buildings larger than 25,000 square feet.

Under the new rules, commercial and multifamily buildings can no longer receive a “quick permit” beginning in March for replacing specific equipment for gas-fired heating and cooling equipment. 

A quick permit is trade-specific and can be issued without going through a plan review. The codes will require permitting for what’s referred to as like-for-like replacement to be the same as the process for heat pumps.

Supporters argue that electrification will improve health and safety, not to mention help Colorado transition away from fossil-fired energy. Critics counter that electrification is costly and that idea of “net zero” is unattainable — particularly because a significant part of the energy load that powers electrification also comes from natural gas. Supporters of natural gas also note that its use has, in fact, helped the U.S. cut down its greenhouse gas emissions, as natural gas combustion emits less carbon dioxide than coal or oil.

 

"In 30% of income-qualified homes in Denver today, gas equipment fails carbon monoxide tests," she said, citing Energy Outreach Colorado. "Electric heating also lowers exposure to indoor air pollutants."

Katrina Managan, director of buildings and homes at Denver Climate Action, Sustainability & Resiliency