As published in the 12/15/10 version of the “News & Observer,” our local paper in Raleigh, recent developments in the review process for the upcoming Energy Code have some folks, myself included, a bit concerned. Entitled “Energy saved, safety lost?” the reporter informs us that the NC Building Code Council has approved new regulations for the soon-to-be-issued, 2012 NC Energy Code.
It’s not surprising that in March of 2012, North Carolina will have a new Energy Code (we do every 3 years, like clockwork). It’s also not surprising that the new Code will mandate a 30% increase in energy efficiency for commercial buildings. (Various “green” programs have been requiring 30% minimum for several years already.)
What is surprising is that, residential construction may get a pass. Worse yet, the costs associated with a watered-down efficiency increase may be offset by the removal of provisions which may affect life safety.
Turns out that the NC Home Builders Association and the Governor have lobbied the NC Building Code Council requesting that consideration be made for home builders “in these tough economic times,” (my quotes, not theirs – really, has a phrase other than “green” been more overused?). They argue that now is not the time to burden home builders with additional expense when they’re trying to build and sell homes.
So, the HBA and the Governor requested that the energy efficiency requirement be reduced to 15%, and that the cost of those upgrades (valued around $3,000 – by someone) be offset through the elimination of code requirements deemed expendable. The Governor’s office was kind enough to furnish the Code Council with a list of 20 suggestions, including some affecting smoke detectors and other life safety requirements.
Several thoughts come immediately to mind:
- Wow, the Home Builders Association is a powerful organization, with friends in high places. The commercial building industry is certainly not getting this kind of support.
- Regardless of the percentage, how in the world will it be enforced for residential construction? Even if it’s designed and engineered properly, how will the homeowner know it was installed properly? Will it be tested? Just because the windows have the right label on them doesn’t mean they were installed correctly. I swear my own house (less than 10 years old) has multiple walls without ANY insulation, but it was supposedly built “to Code.”
- And, yes, ALL sectors of construction are hurting. But 14 months from now, when this Code is enacted (with or without the customary 6-month phase-in period), if the home building industry is back to going gangbusters, will HBA then agree to the 30%? I’m not holding my breath.
- And, most importantly, safety. Obviously, the NC Building Code Council cannot sacrifice safety just so Track Home Builder XYZ can give their shareholders a warm, fuzzy feeling. I will be very interested in seeing what’s cut, and why it’s no longer important to have in the Code.