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Living By The Code

With the arrival of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the building industry begins the process of adopting the code at the state level. In line with the goals set by the U.S. Department of Energy, the 2012 IECC sets out to achieve a 30 percent energy savings over previously published codes.

While industry professionals understand and support the need for improved energy standards, the code review and adoption process can be complex. For these reasons it’s important to follow the status of codes in individual states and municipalities as these decisions can impact choice in building processes and products.

“When considering the 2012 IECC, states are examining the associated costs and impact of this code, as well as how the new requirements work with climatic conditions and building practices specific to each state,” said Tom Kositzky, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Energy Codes (CFEC).

A few states—such as Maryland and Illinois—are required by state statute to adopt the most recent edition of the IECC within a set number of months of publication. Maryland was the first state to adopt the new code. Other states are electing to move forward with adopting amended versions of the 2012 IECC or choosing to wait for the release of future energy codes.

“As all the I-codes evolve, builders have to balance structural requirements, energy codes and moisture prevention in order to continue to cost-effectively build safe, energy-efficient buildings,” said Mark Halverson, manager of field services for the APA.

The Builders Association of Minnesota flagged questions regarding excessive costs and moisture issues related to the code’s insulation requirements, Kositzky said. As a result, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry opted not to require builders to use 2x6 walls with 1-inch of foam sheathing as the 2012 IECC requires. Instead, they are adopting R-21 cavity insulation.

Because of cost considerations, Georgia elected to bypass the adoption of the 2012 IECC code entirely, staying with the recently adopted 2009 energy code. However, the state is moving forward with adopting the other 2012 I-codes.

Some states, like Ohio and Texas, have only recently adopted the 2009 energy code, a requirement tied to Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. Ohio’s 2009 IECC adoption included energy-neutral amendments that allow for alternate wall assemblies in exchange for tightening other areas of the home’s building envelope.

States and municipalities across the nation are continuing to review the 2012 IECC, requiring careful consideration and balance of code rules with each state’s needs.

“The CFEC is an excellent resource and is already working with a number of associations to help shape the future of energy codes,” said Rusty Carroll, director of corporate marketing for LP Building Products, a leading manufacturer of engineered wood. “The APA, the CFEC and product manufacturers are hard at work to come up with alternative assemblies that meet code while addressing state concerns.”

This article is the first in a series of codes articles from Engineered Wood. Click here for more information about the CFEC.

Major Changes In The 2012 IECC
According to the DOE’s preliminary analysis, the major changes that are estimated to improve energy efficiency in new homes built to comply with the code in most climate zones include:

  • Building thermal envelope improvements
    • Increases in prescriptive insulation levels of walls, roofs and floors
    • Decrease (improvement) in U-factor allowances for fenestration
    • Decrease (improvement) in allowable Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) for fenestration in warm climates
  • Infiltration control: Mandated wholehouse pressure test with strict allowances for air leakage rates
  • Wall insulation when structural sheathing is used
  • Ventilation fan efficiency
  • Lighting—Increased fraction of lamps required to be high-efficacy
  • Air distribution systems—leakage control requirements
  • Hot water pipe insulation and length requirements
  • Skylight definition change
  • Penalizing electric resistance heating in the performance compliance path
  • Fireplace air leakage control Insulating covers for in-ground spas
  • Baffles for attic insulation

Changes that appear to decrease residential efficiency in some situations include the following:

  • Steel-framed wall insulation
  • Air barrier location

Changes whose effect is unclear:

  • Fenestration SHGC requirement in climate zone 4
  • Interior shading assumptions in the performance compliance path

Summary taken from the Federal Register.

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