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Marshall Fire victims have wide array of options for rebuilding homes to higher energy efficiency standards

Many Coloradans affected by Marshall Fire weighed down by inflation
Many Coloradans affected by Marshall Fire weighed down by inflation 02:46

Burned out homeowners were at a town hall session Wednesday night and heard more information about how they can rebuild homes lost in the Marshall Fire to higher energy efficiency standards. There are an almost dizzying array of options to do so.

"Every time I come to one of these kinds of things I get a little bit more clarity on what I'm trying to do… And it helps," said Steve Downing. Retired, Downing now says the rebuilding process for his home is like five full-time jobs.

"The number of things you have to think about is just incredible. It doesn't end."

Louisville homeowner Richard Ratajczyk said the experience of losing a home in the incredibly fast fire left him and many others with PTSD. Now rebuilding is another challenge. Costs keep rising.

"I'm building a home about 25% smaller than what I originally had and it's going to cost be about $150,000-$200,000 more."

Part of that is the building fees, which are higher in Louisville than Superior or for homeowners under Boulder County rules. Those fees have been peeled back.

"I'm looking at building fees for around $24,000 and then they've got usage fees and I don't know how many other fees are going to get tacked onto that," said Ratajczyk.

Homeowners in Louisville and Superior are allowed to build to previous efficiency standards rather than potentially more costly 2021 International Energy Codes, but that means they are not eligible for the rebates and grants from Xcel Energy and the State of Colorado. Various rebates and grants can add up to over $20,000, likely more than the cost of the difference between 2018 building codes and 2021 building codes said Robby Schwarz, a residential energy advisor for Boulder County's Energy Smart program.

"The cost of going from the 2018 International Energy Code to the 2021 International Energy Code is about 1%. On the average house that's about a $5,000 increase in cost," said Schwarz.

Some homeowners have been rattled by estimates that meeting updated codes would have a huge cost. The Colorado Association of Homebuilders put the cost at up to $100,000 soon after the fire. Downing said his estimates for his home are, "Much, much lower."

"I think that it's much more manageable to do the efficiency, the electrification stuff than people are afraid it's going to be. But unfortunately this $100,000 pulled out of somewhere number has created a life of its own."

Research has shown the cost at less than a fifth of that. But it depends on builder familiarity.

"That unfamiliarity, they're charging extra for that. Because they don't know what they don't know," said Schwarz.

And all building costs are rising.

"Now we're at a really challenging time coming out of COVID. We have supply chain issues. We have labor shortage issues," Schwarz added.

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