Cracking the Code

July 30, 2014

In 2013, residents and businesses in Utah achieved something remarkable. They changed the debate in the Capitol that had led to the state’s reputation as a national energy efficiency laggard and ushered in the first meaningful update in building energy codes in more than six years.

After years of crushing defeats at hands of special interest lobbyists for the building industry—the Utah Legislature voted unanimously for HB 202 sponsored by Rep. Brad Wilson (R-Kayesville), a homebuilder himself, adopting truly modern standards for the Beehive State.

What made the difference?

Elevating voices of real builders and businesses focused on meeting strong consumer demand for more efficient homes was a big part of the answer. Bringing local builders into the forefront showed lawmakers that the lobbyists in the Capitol didn’t speak for everyone, and set the stage for negotiations that led to a deal.

Casting the debate in economic terms—how Utahns would save money on utilities and future home repairs, pump more money into the economy, and create jobs—changed the way that lawmakers think about energy codes. Underscoring economic benefits upset the traditional environment vs. business frame and reflected the belief that it really is possible to support clean energy and grow the economy at the same time.

Pushing messages like this out through news desks, editorial pages, social media, meetings and other channels reinforced advocates’ messages to lawmakers, and eventually that vision became the dominant narrative. More on the role of communications.

How can others learn from Utah’s experience?

Resource Media has developed a series of tip sheets and sample outreach materials to help you get started in your state or city. Please drop us a line if you want more help!


Sample Utah Materials:

Sample News Coverage: