Next week, the Illinois House of Representatives is expected to approve an extension, to January 1, 2013, of the effective date for the state's adoption of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The state’s Senate has already okayed the extension.
The Home Builders Association of Illinois has been instrumental in getting that date pushed back from July 1, 2012, when the code originally was set to go into effect. Bill Ward, the HBA’s executive vice president, says the later date will allow builders and municipal building departments to become better acquainted with IECC, which updates the 2009 energy code.
The state projects that homes built to the 2012 IECC specifications will be 15% more energy efficient than those built under the 2009 code. The HBA calculates that compliance with the new code would add between $5,000 and $6,200 to the cost of the house. The association also argues that the payback period for homeowners is likely to be several years longer than code advocates claim.
Ward provided Builder with a breakdown of some of his association’s cost estimates for a 2,000-square-foot home built in central Illinois to the 2012 IECC:
•Increased R-values in attic to R49 from R38: Add $1,000
•Increased R-values in basement to R15/19 from R10/3: Add $1,700
•Mandatory Blower-door and Ductblaster tests: Add $1,000
•Increased sealing of the house to meet the blower-door test requirement of three air changes per hour: Add $1,000
•Mandatory duct sealing, even when completely in conditioned space: Add $500
•Mandatory ducting and sealing of return air plenums and chases: Add $500
•Mandatory HVAC equipment size using Manual J: Add $500
Other code changes, as detailed recently by HVACR Business Magazine, that have the potential to add to construction costs include:
•Exterior walls must have an R-value of either 20 or 13+5.
•New wood-burning fireplaces must have right-fitting flu dampers and outside combustion air.
•A minimum of 75% of permanent lamps must be rated high efficiency. And fuel gas ignition systems can’t use standing pilots.
The HBA managed to persuade Illinois lawmakers to accept five air changes per hour in the blower-door test. But Chris Davis, the HBA’s government affairs director, believes compliance will be tough for builders as long as there’s a “severe shortage” of energy raters in the state. And many residential HVAC contractors are not all that familiar with sizing equipment to meet standards set by Manual J, which calculates heat loss and gain in a room under peak or worst-scenario conditions.
Other code amendments the HBA pushed for, but failed to achieve, include a tradeoff between sealed ductwork and the sizing of HVAC equipment, and a prescriptive solution to the blower-door test mandate. Ward says his group also attempted to get the legislature to expand the time period between code changes to six years instead of three. “But that’s not possible right now in Illinois, which is a very ‘blue’ state and sensitive about the environment.”
Ward concedes that builders are contending with proponents of tougher energy codes that typically portray housing industry and contractor cost estimates as exaggerated and claim that homeowners’ energy savings will offset any cost increases resulting from revised codes.
Davis and Ward don’t buy that argument. “The average time a family stays in a house is seven years, but you’d have to live there a lot longer to make up the difference,” says Davis. At presstime, Builder was unable to reach anyone at the Illinois Energy Office for comment about projected costs and savings related to the adoption of the 2012 IECC.
The HBA’s next battle is likely to be over the proposed mandate to install fire sprinklers in all new residential construction. Davis says the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal—which reports to Gov. Pat Quinn—is attempting to circumvent a legislative vote on this mandate by pushing it through administrative rule, claiming that the mandate isn’t creating new policy but amending current policy. The HBA is still waiting for the publication of the fire marshal’s report, after which there would be a review period of several months. “We think the marshal is waiting for this end of the General Assembly’s current session before he offers the plan,” says Ward.
At presstime, Builder was unable to reach anyone at the Fire Marshal’s office in Springfield, Ill., for comment.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.