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Exceeding the Energy Code

New provisions in the IRC and IECC are making houses greener

Posted on Dec 14 2009 by Lynn Underwood

9 Steps to A Greener Code

New homes built using the 2009 International Residential Code (IRCInternational Residential Code. The one- and two-family dwelling model building code copyrighted by the International Code Council. The IRC is meant to be a stand-alone code compatible with the three national building codes—the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA) National code, the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI) code and the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) code.) or International Energy Conservation Code (IECC International Energy Conservation Code.) will be more energy efficient than ever. As a consequence, a builder’s world may become a bit more complex and, in some cases, a bit more expensive.


Code: N1101.8 A code official or local jurisdiction is permitted to allow a national, state, or
local green-building or energy-efficiency program to exceed the energy efficiency required by the IRC or IECC. A building approved in writing by such a program will be considered compliant.

What it means to you: This update ensures that builders who use LEEDLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. , Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners., or a local green-building program may be able to comply with all energy-code provisions of the IRC and IECC. The above code provision allows a building official to deem the energy-efficient program as exceeding the energy efficiency required by the code. The value of this provision is that while the energy requirements of both the IRC and the IECC change, other programs initiated by cities, counties, and states sometimes do not—at least not at the same pace. Builders can disregard the energy requirements of the code only if the locality has approved the alternative program.

The 2009 building codes reflect practices that not only increase energy efficiency, like air sealing measures and increased insulation, but also address sustainable building practices, like moisture control.

Other segments of this series:

Part 1: Air Sealing
Part 2: Insulation
Part 3: Lighting
Part 4: Programmable Thermostats
Part 5: Insulating Mass Walls
Part 6: Efficient Windows
Part 7: Insulating Mechanical Pipes
Part 8: Exceeding the Energy Code
Part 9: Vapor Retarders

Dec 14, 2009 1:25 PM ET

Steps to A Greener Code
by Bill Barth

The value of this provision is that while the energy requirements of both the IRC and the IECC change, other programs initiated by cities, counties, and states sometimes do not—at least not at the same pace.

Are we to assume and expect IRC and IECC codes to maintain a minimum standard consistantly with ever increasing technologies with processes and innovations within energy efficiency?

Dec 22, 2010 11:58 AM ET

by TTF

At some point in this debate over the best way to control indoor environments, I think it would be good to discuss "comfort" itself.

Saving energy or the environment is obviously not the highest value in the industry - comfort is. If its imperative that I need to live between 68 and 72 degrees in my home, I am going to need to invest a lot of resources to get there. What I am willing to live between 65 and 80? What if I want some variation with the seasons, and I don't want to live in a "sterile", unchanging environment?

Dec 22, 2010 12:16 PM ET

Response to TTF
by Martin Holladay

Adjust your thermostat.

Dec 24, 2010 3:35 AM ET

Response to Martin
by TTF

OK - I'll adjust my thermostat. i guess you aren't interested in the debate over just comfortable to we need to be? And how much should we be spending to get it?

I was assuming this was a taboo subject when I posted the comment. If we can convince people that 65 to 80 variation is fine (as it was with my grandparents), it might take a kit less effort and be better for the environment.

Example: Why do I want to pay for a gee-whiz air exchanger and triple pane windows, when we sleep with the window open every night all year long (in Oregon)? The green thing to do is to live with the seasons.

Dec 24, 2010 5:50 AM ET

Second response to TTF
by Martin Holladay

I agree with you completely. Just open your windows.

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