The Alabama Energy and Residential Codes Board last week voted to adopt the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) for new-home construction and the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for commercial construction.
The adoption of these codes, which take effect on October 1, represents the first time that Alabama will enforce a statewide standard. The new codes “will assure that every Alabama home built in areas without locally adopted building codes will be built to a nationally recognized standard,” said Greg Wren, a state representative who co-chairs the board. “Further, the codes will promote energy-efficient construction in every part of the state, saving homeowners and businesses on their utility bills.”
Wren called the adoption of these codes “a monumental achievement” for the state, and for once a politician wasn’t exaggerating. A recent analysis of building code adoption and enforcement in 18 coastal states, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, rated Alabama among the least strict.
It’s worth noting, though, that a handful of municipalities within the state are already moving toward enforcing the 2012 IRC. For example, Baldwin County enacted the 2012 code on January 17, and several other municipalities are in different stages of implementing tougher codes, according to the website for The Birmingham Times, The Huntsville Times and the Mobile Press-Register.
Alabama is adopting the 2009 IRC with some amendments to its energy section. For example, compliance with the national standard for producing a certificate stating the insulation R-values, U-factors, and the solar heat-gain coefficients (SGHC) for windows remains voluntary in Alabama. The state deleted the requirement for the installation of programmable thermostats as well as requirements for insulation for slab-on-grade floors and to protect exposed foundations. It also moved up the requirements for R-8 duct insulation and testing for duct leakage to July 1, 2013.
The state will still allow county and local governments to amend certain provisions within the code “as local conditions require.” And the state is adamant about not imposing the mandatory fire-sprinkler installation standard for one- and two-story houses that made the passage of the 2009 IRC such a topic of controversy for several states.
On the other hand, Alabama—as befits a state that is annually under threat from hurricanes—substituted tougher insulation and fenestration requirements for those in the 2009 IECC.
The Alabama Energy and Residential Code Board is made of 17 representatives from construction firms, trade groups, associations, utilities, licensing boards, municipal building departments, and legislators. The state’s governor’s office appointed 15 board members, and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs provided consultation on portions of the codes related to energy efficiency.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.