Vote online to preserve energy efficiency provisions in the forthcoming 2018 codes.
Every three years, hundreds of building industry members from states across the nation convene to develop the next U.S. model building energy code via a consensus process held by the International Code Council. The process, which includes code officials, architects, engineers, product manufacturers, builders and energy efficiency advocates, is designed to ensure that modern-day technology and building practices are incorporated into the current model building code. States are then encouraged to adopt the latest code, which saves them the time and cost of having to develop a code on their own.
This year, hearings took place April 17-27 in Louisville, KY. Meetings began at 8 AM and lasted until 10 PM most nights. More than 500 changes to the forthcoming 2018 IECC were proposed; about 200 of those specific to the residential buildings. The IECC’s 12-member Residential Energy Committee (REC) is responsible for code development for Chapter 11 of the IRC and the residential provisions of the IECC. Some members of the committee were more focused on lowering costs for home builders rather than improving energy efficiency of homes. As a result, the 2018 IECC has the potential to be significantly weaker than the previous codes, as detailed below:
- High-efficiency equipment can be traded-off for reduced insulation (RE134 (NAHB)). Largely due to the arguments of the four committee members that represent the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), the equipment trade-off (which was removed in the 2009 IECC) was reinstated. If this provision passes the final vote, builders will be able to reduce wall insulation R-values by installing high-efficiency HVAC equipment. This change makes new homes more profitable for builders, and leaves future home owners to pay the higher energy bills, for the lifetime of the home.
- Energy Rating Index (ERI) scores would be raised from 51-55 to 57-62 (depending on climate zone). Higher ERI scores mean higher amounts of energy consumed. The lower scores that were set in the 2015 code ensured that a home built to those scores would be as efficient as a home built to the prescriptive path of the code. By raising the allowable score, homes can be considered code compliant even though they are less efficient compared to those built in accordance with the 2018 prescriptive path.
- The ERI path allows renewable energy to replace insulation. The energy code has historically been designed to maximize the energy efficiency of a structure. Allowing the generation of renewable energy to offset energy consumption means that homes can be code compliant even if they use more energy. While one may think “what does it matter, if the energy is coming from the sun anyway?”, it’s not that simple: (1) solar photovoltaic (PV) panels don’t last as long as wall insulation; (2) solar PV panels can be removed by future owners; (3) solar PV panels are themselves energy-intensive to produce. Overall, the code should focus on assuring energy efficiency rather than allowing PV to offset that basic minimum goal.
For other code changes, view this recent webinar on actions from the Louisville hearings.
Next steps: The ICC membership will have the opportunity to support or overturn the decisions of the REC, October 16-25th at the Public Comment Hearings in Kansas City, MO and via the cdpAccess online voting system.
Take Action! Your Voice Counts! BCAP is working in partnership with the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) to encourage local governments to take advantage of the power to shape national energy policy by actively participating in the 2018 model energy code development. Please see the resources available at our project website – The Power is in Your Hands – especially the recent webinar on actions from the Louisville hearings for more details on the energy code changes. Contact 855-ICC-CDP1 (422-2371) if you have any questions.