How Shaunna Mozingo Manifests Her Save-The-World Complex
When Shaunna Mozingo raised her hand and volunteered to learn building energy efficiency codes, she had no idea that she would transform her career and her life.
Back then, she was a building plan reviewer in the Westminster, Colorado building division. Today, she is a nationally recognized expert in building energy efficiency codes. Working alongside DOE and others, she guides teams 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 energy and water resources that increasingly are a top priority for city and county planners and code officials—as well as climate scientists.
The people Mozingo works with on her teams come from all areas of the building industry. “She is definitely motivated, she’s willing to pursue an issue that she’s passionate about,” says Dave Horras, chief building official for the City of Westminster who served as both boss and mentor to Mozingo. “And she’s not afraid—not afraid to ask questions, to pick up the phone and call someone regardless of their position or status,” he adds.
Horras led the meeting during which Mozingo raised her hand and volunteered. The entire building 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 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.
Jim Meyers, an energy code analyst for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, helped Mozingo with her first workshop on the 2006 code. He agreed that the codes are complex but pointed out that they provide major benefits. “Buildings use 39% of our total energy in the United States,” he says, “Yet the more energy efficient buildings constructed to new energy code standards have the potential to use far less. By adopting and enforcing more recent codes, communities are providing economic and environmental benefits to all citizens.”
Back when Mozingo began working with the 2006 code, Westminster decided that it would require builders to size 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 says. 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.
In 2011, Mozingo was named president of the Colorado chapter of ICC. Then the national ICC asked her teach the code in other states, so she took a vacation day every once in a while to do 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 state’s 339 jurisdictions and working with them on building codes.
Although Mozingo didn’t want to leave Westminster, 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 coming to her. She had so much potential that, ultimately, I encouraged her to look at other options,” says Horras, who still mentors Mozingo.
So Mozingo took over the management of a $1 million contract and visited every corner of Colorado to ask what energy efficiency code 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. But it’s not just this task that she’s tacked with zeal. She learned auto mechanics so that she wouldn’t have to rely on someone else. When she had a boyfriend who raced motocross, she took up the sport and learned to race. But it was teaching that grabbed her most. “I remember the first time I ever taught, I thought, ‘Ah, that is what I like,’” she says.
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, worked out their differences, and made compromises that the new codes would be better for everyone.
Now 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 and other projects.
“Before that first code hearing, I had never opened an energy code book in my life,” says 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 that they can turn to if they need help and they are not afraid of the more stringent energy codes, says Mozingo.
Mozingo also has played a role in transforming the housing market in Colorado. Today, nearly half of new homes are built to Energy Star energy efficiency standards, and those standards are pegged to the latest energy codes.
Suzanne Pletcher is director of communications at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project based in Boulder, Colorado, which promotes energy efficiency policy in six states in the Southwest.
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