In late October, the International Energy Code (IEC) final action hearings took place. At the hearings in Las Vegas, there was a proposal that would have greatly affected growers in the U.S. According to Matt Stuppy, president of Stuppy Inc. and a member of the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association’s codes and standards committee, the changes would have drastically changed the greenhouse covering types available to growers and retailers.
The changes, Stuppy says, would have made single pane glass, corrugated polycarbonate and single poly greenhouses against the rules. To stay up to date, growers would have had to install double wall coverings and an energy curtain to maintain compliance where IEC guidelines are enforced.
However, the changes were voted down. Stuppy, along with Paul Jacobson of Green-Tek Inc., were present at the International Code Council (ICC) meeting in Las Vegas where the rules were voted on. Had the changes been passed Stuppy says growers would have “felt the pain” from the regulations in 2022 or 2023 due to an adoption process and rule enforcement. Basically, Stuppy says, any grower living in an area where the energy codes are enforced would have had to update their facility.
"The real issue that NGMA has been involved with is the energy codes development process and we've watched it to make sure that we don't get anything in the energy codes that would affect greenhouse production,” he says. “And we try to keep in mind all kinds of greenhouses, whether it's a commercial grower or a garden center or educational facility or whatnot."
According to Stuppy, greenhouse glazing was put on the ICC’s radar because of a single cannabis facility in Eastern Washington. The facility was using a “significant” amount of energy and was noticed by someone involved with the ICC. That caused a push to regulate all kinds of greenhouses, regardless of what crops they produce or where they are located. He also suspects that greenhouses will remain subject to potential regulation in the coming years.
"Three years from now, the energy codes will start a new revision cycle, I fully expect there to be another round of proposals that target the greenhouse industry for energy usage,” Stuppy says. “So today it was the greenhouse coverings and I expect those to come back up. If you watch the testimony online, you'll see that there are a lot of people in favor of this. They aren't greenhouse operators, and they aren't in our industry. But they are definitely in favor of putting in restrictions on greenhouses. And there will be other things that come along, whether it's heating systems or cooling systems or other impacts. We have to be diligent about this."
Stuppy adds that voting membership could still override the final action hearing decision with a two-thirds majority, but he considers that unlikely.
The next potential rule change could occur in three years. There is some regulation NGMA could support. One is better defining what a greenhouse is in the codes to avoid confusing them with warehouse growing operations, and the other is establishing geographic exceptions for growers already following best practices.
He also recommends that growers get involved in the process by educating local officials involved with ICC and to get involved with local and national grower organizations to advocate for not going too far with greenhouse education. That includes communicating with NGMA, which Stuppy says will continue its advocacy over the next several years.
"NGMA would welcome any kind of help as we wait for the next proposals for the energy code that'll be coming out in a few years,” he says. “In the meantime, we intend to do some education and reach out to people who want to add rules and regulations to see if there's some things that make sense for our industry, that are best energy practices, without being overly restrictive and hinder growers' opportunities."