As more states and municipalities adopt the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), builders and remodelers are finding that the requirements are increasing the amount of high-performing insulation needed in each home. In addition, homeowners are well informed today via their own research and are examining these long-term cost centers to ensure their contractors are providing state-of-the-art designs.
A key provision requires a higher performing envelope through continuous exterior insulation, which means insulation that blankets the structural members and can eliminate thermal bridging. Another standard upgrades wall-insulation requirements in most climate zones, to the point that builders and remodelers in northern climate zones will opt to provide an exterior insulation assembly to meet requirements.
These changes will provide long-term benefits to homeowners, including lower energy bills, less noise penetration, lessened worries about moisture penetration, and no drafts or cold spots near walls. But they also will require contractors to re-examine their building techniques and possibly change or add to the materials they use.
These new requirements can be met in a variety of ways, some of which will be more easily adapted depending on each builder’s own systems. Changes may also impact other materials and systems that also will have to be reviewed. Higher insulation levels, for instance, may reduce the amount of HVAC equipment required to heat and cool the home.
As part of the new standards, each home also must pass a blower-door test, to ensure an air-leakage rate below a specified number of air exchanges per hour based on the climate zone. Written reports are required to verify test results. However, as the home becomes more airtight, the need to provide mechanical air exchanges to improve indoor air quality becomes more important—although the IECC code doesn’t require such equipment, the 2012 IRC does include requirements for mechanical ventilation.
As builders and remodelers know, many states and local code adopters are slow to bring their own requirements in line with the latest standards. Many have yet to adopt the 2009 code (although they may skip it and advance to the most recent when they do upgrade). Even so, learning the specifics of the insulation/energy requirements early provides more time to find the most cost-effective approach to meeting those needs on a regular basis with the least disruption or cost. Forward-thinking builders can gain a step on competitors by working to meet the new codes and market that difference to their customers. This not only differentiates their houses but ensures they’re ready when the new code is enacted in their area—and it will be.
Editor’s Note: This is sponsored content.