The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) has been updated and is sure to affect the remodeling industry. To what degree it will affect you depends upon how stringent your local inspectors are and how ardent you and your clients are in achieving the goal of a 30% increase in energy savings. Then again, some rural areas that don’t even have building codes will undoubtedly continue “business as usual.”

While most of the changes apply to new construction, the revised IECC will likely only affect renovations depending on how much of the structure is opened up, according to Carl Seville, Georgia-based green consultant and REMODELING columnist. “Unfortunately, the way the new rules are written is profoundly vague regarding renovations,” he says. “In theory, you only have to meet the code in instances where you’re exposing at least 50% of the home’s envelope, such as cases when you open up a walls or a ceiling.”

Specific updates that relate to residential structures are:
• A mandatory air infiltration test in all homes to ensure building envelope efficiency.
• A requirement that ducts be tested to a tighter duct leakage standard.
• An increase in stringency for insulation and glazing efficiency requirements.
• A set of options to solve the problem of “stranding” — and therefore wasting — heated water: keeping pipes “short and skinny” or insulating them to avoid waste.
• The elimination of a former duplication of model energy codes between the IECC and the International Residential Code, streamlining the process into a singular, efficient path to residential compliance.

Green Building Demand

Some home builders are expanding their green offerings not just due to the new rules but to an increase in demand as well, according to an article in South Carolina's The State by Kristy Eppley Rupon. In South Carolina, Columbia-based Essex Homes “has its own energy-efficient building program that it has expanded due to high demand, which it says saves home buyers up to 35% on energy bills compared to new homes built with existing minimum standards,” Rupon writes. 

Mark Nix, the executive director of the Home Builders Association of South Carolina told The State that the new energy code will increase the cost of a home by roughly $800 which, he said, should be quickly recouped via energy savings.

While these efforts in the Palmetto State should be lauded, Seville says that the new codes will likely only be enforced in areas where “the code is very clear. Otherwise we won’t see a lot of enforcement.” He added that if remodelers plan to comply, they should prepare themselves for doing “a lot of things they haven’t been doing before.”

—Mark A. Newman, senior editor, REMODELING.

For more information, see:
U.S. Dept. of Energy —  Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

30/30 Vision – Goal in Sight: Hearings Bring DOE Closer to 30% More Stringent IECC

For more REMODELING opinions on energy codes, go to:
Our Codes, A Constant Compromise

The Folly of Deep Energy Retrofits

His, HERS, Ours: A guide to the Home Energy Rating System