In the recent BUILDER article, “5 Up-and Coming Building Products”, Drew Vass highlights a product called GigaHouse, a super-insulated building system where steel studs are encapsulated within EPS insulation to form easy-to-install interlocking panels. The system has insulation levels starting at R-24 and reaches as high as R-60. The development of this type of innovative product indicates the ever-increasing market demand for more energy efficient homes. The importance of energy efficient housing has also been recognized by the nation’s code officials who have consistently voted to increase the minimum levels of efficiency in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for almost a decade.
In April, the International Code Council (ICC) held the Committee Action Hearings for the IECC in Louisville, KY. This was the first step in the year-long development process for the 2018 IECC. The 10 member Residential Energy Committee voted on nearly 300 proposals.
The following is a summary of some of the committee’s key decisions:
- Approved a reasonable trade-off for the envelope air leakage requirements when using the performance path. The proposal will allow for 6 air changes per hour (ACH) in climate zones 1-2, and 5 ACH in climate zones 3-8 only when using a performance path (instead of 3 and 5 for the prescriptive or trade-off path),
- Approved RESNET/ICC Standard 380 as a new envelope leakage testing procedure,
- Approved proposal for 90 percent high efficacy lighting (compared to 50 and 75 percent in the 2012 and 2015 IECC’s respectively),
- Approved a proposal to allow ducts to be buried within attic insulation,
- Approved a proposal to re-institute equipment trade-offs into the Performance Path (this trade-off has been eliminated since the 2009 IECC),
- Approved a proposal to replace the Energy Rating Index calculation methodology with a reference to the new RESNET Standard 301,
There were also some notable proposals that the committee disapproved:
- All residential water efficiency proposals were disapproved with the reasoning that they be included in the Plumbing Code,
- Proposals to expand the insulation table to include options for only cavity insulation, or only continuous insulation or a combination of the two,
- A proposal to allow RESNET/ICC Standard 380 as an acceptable standard for duct leakage testing,
- All attempts to limit renewable energy in the Energy Rating Index path (click here to see my latest blog about this topic)
The adoption of updated building codes can often frustrate builders who are tasked with learning the new provisions, but this process is important for new and innovative products, like GigaHouse, to be recognized as code compliant. Without code compliance, builder’s limit the installation of the latest effective and energy efficient products which, ultimately, slows the progression toward higher quality housing stock.
While this year’s Residential Energy Committee was predominantly anti-efficiency, the fate of these proposals will be made during the ICC’s Public Comment Hearings in Kansas City, Mo in October. In a new development this year, code officials who can’t make it in person will be able to vote online in November.