By: Suzanne Pletcher Issue: Transformation Section: Government
Transforming the Building Energy Code Industry
When Shaunna Mozingo raised her hand in 2006 at a City of Westminster building division meeting and volunteered to learn building energy efficiency codes, she had no idea that simple act would transform her career and life.
Back then, she was a building plan reviewer in the Westminster building division. Today, she is a nationally recognized expert in building energy efficiency codes. She works alongside the United States Department of Energy and others, for instance, leading teams of diverse people from the fields of construction, design, community and county building departments; tradespeople in insulation, heating and air-conditioning; and others through the long conversation that leads to final agreement on the next generation of energy efficiency building codes. Those codes are the evolving blueprint for improvements in American buildings that provide greater comfort and lower utility bills to inhabitants as well as preserve precious energy and water resources that are increasingly a top priority for city and county planners and code officials—as well as climate scientists.
“She is definitely motivated, she’s willing to pursue an issue that she’s passionate about and she’s passionate about just about everything that she does. She’s not afraid—not afraid to ask questions, to pick up the phone and call someone regardless of their position or status,” said Dave Horras, chief building official for the City of Westminster, who served as both boss and mentor to Mozingo.
Horras led the fateful meeting with the entire city building staff during which Mozingo raised her hand and volunteered. The staff was discussing the 2006 international energy conservation code, and Horras was adamant that, if the building department was going to adopt the code, then it also was going to enforce it. He needed someone to head up the effort. Mozingo had been in the job less than a year at that point, but she told Horras she would take it on. One of the first people she called was Gil Rossmiller, chief building official in Parker. Rossmiller was the only other building official in Colorado who was at that time fully implementing the 2006 energy code. They sat down for an entire day, and he taught her the basics.
Then she volunteered for the energy code interpretations committee with the International Code Council (ICC). The committee took requests for interpretations of the code and rendered an opinion, so she knew she would learn many of the details. Learning the code, which is updated every three years and is now at the 2012 level, might be compared to learning law, or accounting—the complexity is astounding and intimidating to most people—including the building community. But, there are major benefits to the building energy code.
Explained Jim Meyers, an energy code analyst for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project who helped Mozingo with her first workshop on the 2006 code, “Buildings use 39 percent of our total energy in the United States. The more energy-efficient buildings we construct to new energy code standards, the more potential we have to use far less. By adopting and enforcing more recent codes, communities are providing economic and environmental benefits to all citizens.”
But at that time with the 2006 code, Westminster decided that it would require builders to start sizing heating and air-conditioning equipment specifically to how the more energy-efficient buildings were built rather than by rule of thumb. Mozingo remembers that builders were up in arms, so she held a public meeting for anyone interested in the issue, and they discussed it and learned together.
“I thought that other communities would be adopting the 2006 energy code soon, and they would have a steep learning curve,” Mozingo said. So she decided to share what she knew, applied for and received a small grant, and developed a weekly energy code training program called Westminster Wednesdays. The trainings were open to all. “Shaunna is a leadership type. She makes people comfortable in the trainings that she leads, and she is not overbearing,” said Rossmiller. “She is very good at letting people find their own way.”
In 2011, Mozingo was named president of the Colorado chapter of ICC. Then the national ICC asked her to teach the code in other states, so she took a vacation day here and there to do just that. Shortly thereafter, she was asked by Colorado Code Consulting to take on a new job with them to manage an energy contract they had with the state of Colorado, visiting each of the 339 jurisdictions and working with them on building codes. “I didn’t want to leave Westminster,” she said. “I had a great job and they gave me such wings!”
But Horras knew better. “I saw early on that she wasn’t going to be with us for the long haul just because she had so much going. She had so much potential that, ultimately, I encouraged her to look at other options,” said Horras, who remains a Mozingo fan and mentor to this day.
So Mozingo took over the management of a $1 million contract and visited every corner of Colorado to ask what help was needed. She would find out where the community was weak and design a training to fill the gap. “My family calls it my ‘out to save the world’ complex,” says Mozingo, and added that she wants to please people and help out. In fact, she has tackled other interests with the same zeal. She learned auto mechanics so that she wouldn’t have to rely on someone else, and ended up working on other people’s cars. And, when her boyfriend raced motocross, she took up the sport and learned to race.
But what grabbed her most was teaching. “I remember the first time I ever taught, I thought, ‘Ah, that is what I like,’” she said. “The next day on my lunch hour I went for a walk and thought about all the different kinds of classes that I could create and teach.” As it turned out, she would be teaching and leading workshops nationally. From her experience in Colorado, she convened a national-level meeting of all the different parties affected by the improvements in energy codes. She figured that if everyone came together and worked out their differences and made compromises, that the new codes would be better for everyone.
Today Mozingo is working to develop “train the trainer” programs nationally, consulting with the National Renewable Energy Lab and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on energy codes, among other things. “Before that first code hearing, I had never opened an energy code book in my life,” said Mozingo. “For me, it has been transforming that I have found my niche. I love to learn, and I love for everybody else to know what I know.” But in the process of her own transformation, Mozingo helped to transform the group of building code officials working in Colorado. Now they know that there are many people whom they can turn to if they need help, and they are not afraid of the more stringent energy codes, said Mozingo.
She also has played a role in transforming the housing market in Colorado. Today, close to half of new homes are built to Energy Star efficiency standards, and those standards are pegged to the latest energy codes. Mozingo and her colleagues are now concentrating their efforts upon commercial buildings. “Soon we will be making a major difference in commercial buildings, and I’m excited about that,” she said.
Suzanne Pletcher is director of communications at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project based in Boulder, which promotes energy efficiency policy in six states of the Southwest. To contact her, call 303.447.0078 x5 or visit www.swenergy.org.