WSJ Enterprises Blog

Putting reality in real estate and green building

2016 State Code Changes; They are a comin’ so what’s in store for the Energy Code?

 

I loved my Razor flip-phone and when I had to get a new phone they told me I couldn’t get another Razor. It was small, easy to open, did everything I needed it to do. So now I have a Smart Phone. I can’t buy a big box television, but I can buy flat screen. I can’t buy a Ford Falcon, but I can buy a Ford Focus. The point is things change and marketing experts state that once a market commodity reaches a 25% market saturation point the market tips to the improvement. Building Science has improved over the decades with a combination of improved methodology and technology and High Performance Homes are reaching the 25% point. The result is healthier, more energy efficient, more durable homes that are more comfortable for the owners. The history of change is evident as consumers have changed their expectations by following product and practical improvements. In the 70’s only 18% of homes had air conditioning. Today 87% of homes are air conditioned. Today’s newly constructed homes have more windows, more insulation, have more complex heating/cooling systems and are larger. It naturally follows that as we strive for improved building practices and products that codes also become more stringent to the point where code homes will equal High Performance Homes.

On October 1, 2016 the State of Connecticut intends to adopt the 2016 Connecticut State Building Code[1].  The intention is to include the adoption of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code and International Residential Code (2012 IECC/IRC) with amendments. The amendments can be reviewed in their entirety at this link; http://www.ct.gov/dcs/lib/dcs/2016_ct_state_building_code.pdf . Mandatory compliance provisions for single family homes include labeling, air sealing, duct leakage, programmable thermostats, building cavity, equipment sizing using Manual J and Manual D, lighting, Ventilation (NEW) and Pipe Insulation (NEW).  A cursory overview is a follows;

  • Labeling- a permanent certificate posted on or in the electrical distribution panel with air leakage and duct leakage testing results
  • Air sealing mandatory with verification by tested leakage ≤ 3 ACH50 in Climate Zone 5 AND a completed Inspection Checklist (Table 402.4.1.1). This is a sea change to air sealing going from a relatively easy compliance standard to a very stringent level of tightness! Very important that the requirement for additions and alterations has been modified to; A visual inspection of the building envelope tightness and insulation installation shall be considered acceptable when the items listed in Table 402.4.1.1, applicable to the method of construction, are field verified.
  • Ducts, air handlers, and filter boxes shall be sealed. Duct tightness shall be verified by either of the following; Post construction test-total leakage shall be less ≤8cfm/100 sq.ft. of conditioned floor area. Rough-in test- total leakage shall be ≤8cfm/100 sq.ft. of conditioned floor area, including manufacturers air handler enclosure. If no air handler is installed at testing, total leakage shall be ≤4cfm/100 sq.ft. of conditioned floor area.

Exceptions: Ducts and air handlers located entirely within the building thermal envelope.

Duct Sealing has been part of the code requirement since 2003 but the fact that this will now be tested is a major change to the requirement.

  • Programmable thermostats are self-explanatory and is a common installation.
  • Building framing cavities shall not be used ducts or plenums.
  • HVAC equipment sizing shall no longer be created by “rule of thumb” but will be mandatory that heating and cooling equipment shall be sized in accordance with ACCA Manual S based in building loads calculated in accordance with ACCA Manual J or other approved heating and cooling calculation methodologies.
  • (NEW) Mechanical ventilation shall be provided that meets the requirement of Section M1507 of the IRC Code or with other means of ventilation. The whole house ventilation fans shall consist of one or more combination of exhaust or supply fans, with ducts and controls. Local exhaust or supply fans are permitted. Outdoor air ducts connected to the return side of an air handler shall be considered to provide supply ventilation.
  • (NEW) Mechanical system piping capable of carrying fluids above 105˚F or below 55˚F shall be insulated to a minimum of R3. Recirculating systems must have an automatic control or readily accessible switch that can turn off the hot water circulating pump when not in use and R3 insulation required.

 

The team at Home Energy Technologies offers pre-construction guidance and training to architects, builders, contractors and designers. We provide inspections services, both the insulation installation and then test the final results with blower door and duct testing. We also do IECC Code compliance testing, diagnostic review, Manual J creation as well as testing and certification for Zero Energy, Energy Star, National Green Building Standard homes. The “boots on the ground” insight from hundreds of homes in every type, size and situation has provided our team with a wealth of knowledge. It is why over the past few years we have been the largest provider of certification and testing services in the State of Connecticut.

Although there are some good and bad practices in current building there is the ability to achieve the upcoming higher standards without busting the bank. The key word is “diligence”. Construction has been “siloed” for too long. The framer never talks to the plumber who never talks to the electrician who never talks to the insulation installer, et al. The change required to achieve higher performance is for all trades to work toward a common goal with the same diligence paid to each trade equally with oversight and teamwork. Also, high performance is designed in, not pasted on at the end. It requires architects and designers to make the contractor their partner in design, not an opponent who has to figure out how to fit application into design.

 

Can the code compliance be done easily? For those who have been doing the same thing for 30 plus years and feel their method of building is perfect, the changes will be a challenge. I can tell you that Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County under the direction of Kevin Moore and working with our team has achieved under 3ACH air sealing for the last three years and under 2ACH/50 for the last year using volunteers albeit building simpler homes. So it can be done.

 

Some good practices and bad practice we have observed that will assist in meeting compliance is taught in a seminar called The Good, the Bad and The Ugly of IECC Code Compliance using examples of actual homes that we have inspected and tested.

[1] http://www.ct.gov/dcs/cwp/view.asp?a=4447&q=523368 Notice of Intent to Adopt 2016 Connecticut State Building Code

 

 

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September 8, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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