Three experts argue for using advanced building systems to meet new standards and reduce overall costs.
One of the primary goals of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is to increase the energy savings in residential and commercial buildings by 30% compared to the 2006 code. This latest version builds upon the 2009 IECC, which calls for 12% energy savings over 2006, and whose residential requirements focus on significantly tighter and more efficient envelopes and HVAC systems.
Meeting the standards set by the 2009 or 2012 codes—along with complying with Energy Star Version 3, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012—would challenge almost any builder. And standards are only going to get more rigorous. “Advocates are pushing for codes that would be 70% to 100% more efficient [than the 2006 code] by 2030,” cautioned Bill Wachtler, executive director of the Structural Insulated Panel Association . That’s the same year the U.S. Department of Energy is calling for affordable net-zero homes and the 2030 Challenge wants all new homes to be carbon neutral.
Wachtler made these observations during an informative panel discussion he moderated at the recent International Builders’ Show on energy code compliance using advanced building systems such as structural insulated panels (SIPs) and insulated concrete forms (ICFs). He also pointed out that the 2012 code requires all new houses to undergo blower-door tests that achieve an air infiltration rate of between three and five air exchanges per hour, depending on the climate zone. And Energy Star Version 3’s HERs score standard is 64. To achieve either of these via stick framing would require considerably more insulation and sealing than is currently common in most residential construction.
Wachtler and his fellow panelists—Frank Baker, the founder of Riverbend Framing Timber and Insulspan, who has been using advanced building systems for 30 years; and Don Ferrier of Ferrier Custom Homes in Fort Worth, Texas, who has been using SIPs in his construction since 1985—offered a detailed and sometimes highly technical argument in favor of advanced building systems. Such systems, they asserted, are more efficient and can help builders meet the new energy code standards because they provide an envelope with continuous insulation, no thermal bridging, and near-perfect air sealing. Advanced systems can also reduce builders’ labor expenses.