ONE OF THE NAHB'S MOST ENDURING strengths is the ability of its grass-roots members to mobilize and take quick, decisive action on behalf of the housing industry and the housing consumers it serves.

Today, we need that grass-roots help—your help—to roll back onerous and costly insulation code requirements that would add significantly to the cost of building a new home but would result in only minimal energy savings for homeowners.

During its 2003–2004 code development cycle, the International Code Council (ICC) approved proposed changes that increase the wall insulation required for wood-framed construc-conventional construction practices.

ASKING A LOT To meet the proposed code changes, builders would be required to do one of three things:

  • Move from 2x4 construction to 2x6 construction;
  • Use a costly, high-density fiberglass product; or
  • Attach additional insulation to the outside face of exterior walls.
  • All three options have significant drawbacks.

    Moving to 2x6 walls would be required with insulation such as sprayed cellulose and expanding foams because those products couldn't achieve the overly stringent energy levels with standard 2x4 construction. This change would cost an additional $1,000 or more in lumber to build an average new home.

    Also, high-density fiberglass insulation is not readily available in some regions and costs twice as much as regular-density insulation.

    Finally, attaching insulated sheathing to the exteriors of walls adds costs for materials and labor, takes away a secure nailing surface, and requires extra bracing and jamb extensions.

    According to the Department of Energy, which also opposes the changes, the new requirements would add $600 to $1,000 to the cost of an average new home while saving homeowners only about $15 annually. Depending on climate, it would take 40 to 90 years for consumers to recoup the cost of the additional insulation. The average home buyer lives in a new home for seven to 10 years, which we believe is a more appropriate payback period for home energy-efficiency improvements.

    The NAHB fought hard to defeat these changes, which would take effect next year as part of the International Energy Conservation Code. Unfortunately, we lost by a very close vote during initial code hearings in the spring. At the final ICC hearings, which will be held in Detroit in late September and early October, we will be seeking support for EC-16/04-05, a proposal to roll back the requirements to more reasonable, cost-effective levels.

    IT'S NOT TOO LATE There is still a chance that we can keep this change from becoming permanent, and the NAHB will be working toward that goal. But we really need your help. Please contact your local code officials and ask them if they are going to the hearings in Detroit. If they are, tell them why the code provision should be restored to a more sensible level, and ask them to support our EC-16 proposal at this fall's final code hearing. Also, ask them to pass the information along to their colleagues who will be attending.

    To help you make the case, we have posted background materials, talking points, and a sample letter on our Web site. Go to or call 800-368-5242, ext. 8303, for more information.

    President, NAHB Washington, D.C.