The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Final actions on more than 2,000 proposed code changes for the 2015 editions of the International Code Council’s International Residential Code (IRC), International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), and other I-Codes were decided in Atlantic City, NJ in late October.

The Good

National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) was successful on 85% of the hundreds of proposals that the association supported or opposed for the 2015 IRC.  Of particular importance are:

Additional Requirements for Exterior Foam Plastics.  A proposal was disapproved that would have required all single-family homes or townhouses with foam plastics in the wall or roof system within 10 feet of the property line to be protected on both the interior and exterior by a thermal barrier.

Additional Stairs and Ramps.  A proposal that would have required all single-family homes and townhouses with multiple levels to have a stair or ramp within 50 feet of any habitable portion of the home was disapproved.

Residential Accessibility.  A proposal was disapproved that would have required all one and two family homes to be designed so people with disabilities could enter unassisted, have zero-clearance entrance, an elevator or lift, an accessible bathroom, bedroom and a kitchen with 40 inches of clear floor space at all counters.

Foundation Walls in Flood Zones.  A proposal that would have required reinforced short stem walls in riverine flood zones (FEMA Zone A) was disapproved.

The Bad

While NAHB posted resounding victories for the 2015 edition of the IRC, only about 60% of the changes proposed in favor of cost-effective, energy-efficient new homes were approved for the 2015 IECC.

Key proposals to restore mechanical equipment trade-offs, and to provide trade-offs for building tightness and window area, were soundly defeated despite testimony from dozens of builders, NAHB staff and building officials.

The Ugly

Trade-offs are energy-neutral by definition and allow builders and their customers to make choices based on affordability, marketability, or just plain personal preference.  Unfortunately, there was concerted effort by opponents of home builders to maintain the reduced flexibility of the 2012 IECC and mandate that builders meet the stringent requirements of the energy code without exception.

For instance, another energy-neutral proposal to allow a builder to get credit in the performance path of the code was installing solar panels was disapproved, with opponents arguing that builders could possibly skimp on insulation to save money.

Common-sense proposals to improve the flexibility, cost-effectiveness and product neutrality of the energy codes were too often thwarted by a coalition of energy-efficiency advocates funded by those businesses with the most to gain from more stringent codes.

Despite these setbacks, NAHB was still able to hold its own as the 2015 residential energy requirements will not be more stringent than the 2012 and could actually turn out to be a bit less stringent.


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