Colorado requires builders to accommodate high-efficiency devices in new homes

Since 2009, lawmakers have been adding requirements for builders to make homes greener
(Photo: Haiyin, Dreamstime)

Starting in 2009, the Colorado Legislature began adding requirements that builders offer certain options to accommodate high-efficiency devices. These requirements started with solar prewire options in 2009, then water-smart home options in 2010. In 2020, the Legislature added requirements for electric vehicle charging and heating systems. These sections apply to unoccupied homes serving as sales inventory or a model home or manufactured homes, as defined by Colorado law. While the Legislature has only required builders to include options to accommodate these devices, it may be just a matter of time until builders must install the prescribed devices themselves.

Related: 5 benefits of arbitration for construction disputes

In 2009, the Legislature passed C.R.S. 38-35.7-106, which was amended this year by HB 20-1155. As it now reads, Colorado law requires every builder of single-family detached residences to offer to have the home’s electrical or plumbing system, or both, include:

  1. A residential photovoltaic solar generation system or a residential thermal system, or both;
  2. Upgrades of wiring or plumbing, or both, planned by the builder to accommodate future installation of such systems; and
  3. A chase or conduit, or both, constructed to allow ease of future installation of the necessary wiring or plumbing for such systems.

The builder must also provide buyers with a list of businesses in the area that offer residential solar installation services.

In 2010, the Legislature passed C.R.S. 38-35.7-107, which requires every builder of single-family detached residences to offer one or more of the following water-smart home options:

  1. Energy Star dishwashers or washing machines;
  2. Landscaping that follows the practices outlined in “Green Industry Best Management Practices for the Conservation and Protection of Water Resources in Colorado: Moving Toward Sustainability,” released in May 2008, or this document’s successor; or
  3. A pressure-reducing valve that limits static service pressure in a residence to a maximum of 60 pounds per square inch.

Finally, in 2020, the Legislature passed HB 20-1155, to be codified as C.R.S. 38-35.7-109. This law requires every builder of new residences to offer to have the home’s electrical system include one of the following:

  1. An electric vehicle charging system;
  2. Upgrades of wiring to accommodate future installation of an electric vehicle charging system; or
  3. A 208- to 240-volt plug-in receptacle accessible to a motor vehicle parking area.

Builders must also offer buyers an option for an efficient electrical heating system, including an electric water heater, electric boiler, or electric furnace or heat-pump system. Finally, this law requires that the builder offer the buyer pricing, energy efficiency and utility bill information for each natural gas, electric or other option available, either from the federal Energy Star program, or similar information reasonably available to the builder.

Related: Net-zero heroes—Energy-efficient solutions to an affordable housing crisis

Nothing in these laws preclude the builder from charging or requiring deposits for these upgrades, or requiring that the decision to include the upgrade be made according to a specific deadline or construction schedule; or prohibit the builder from selecting the contractors for installation of the offered upgrades. These sections all state that the builder can, by contract, indicate that the higher efficiency options are based on technology available at the time of installation; that they may not support high-efficiency devices installed in the future, or that additional upgrades, retrofits or other alterations may be necessary to accommodate high-efficiency devices installed in the future; and that the builder is not liable for any such upgrades, retrofits or alterations. Builders should be sure to include this language in their purchase and sale documents.

David McLain

David McLain is a founding member of Higgins, Hopkins, McLain & Roswell LLC, a law firm specializing in construction law and litigation in Colorado. He can be reached at [email protected].

David McLain has 15 posts and counting. See all posts by David McLain

Leave a Reply