In Case You Missed It: 2015 IECC in Effect Across Texas

Across Texas, codes are a‑changin’ for both res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial con­struc­tion. As of September 1, 2016, the 2015 Inter­na­tion­al Energy Con­ser­va­tion Code (“IECC 2015”) is in effect for home con­struc­tion. Nov. 1, 2016 is the go” date for applying IECC 2015 to new com­mer­cial buildings. Because building codes are enforced at the local level, and because larger metro areas also must meet federal air quality standards, there’s some uncer­tain­ty in the building industry. 

So what does this mean for archi­tects and con­trac­tors designing and building today? What if some juris­dic­tions are still operating under 2012 IECC or earlier versions? 

First, know that many juris­dic­tions will not have formally adopted the code by these deadlines. It’s creating an ambiguous situation across the state of Texas because many munic­i­pal­i­ties have failed to approve an updated energy code by the deadline, or they may have adopted a new energy code but did not make them effective prior to the state’s deadline. While con­trac­tors may be able to permit and pass inspec­tions in these local juris­dic­tions under the less stringent energy code than the state mandated 2015 IECC, industry experts agree that the con­trac­tor may be exposing their busi­ness­es to potential legal liability in the future. This is espe­cial­ly true for projects in Texas Com­mis­sion on Envi­ron­men­tal Quality (TCEQ) air quality non-attain­ment areas which include most major met­ro­pol­i­tan areas in Texas.

Addi­tion­al­ly, all state-funded buildings must conform, regard­less of local jurisdiction. 

The Texas State Imple­men­ta­tion Plan (SIP) is the state’s com­pre­hen­sive plan to meet federal air quality standards. As part of that plan, TCEQ has des­ig­nat­ed certain counties in the state that are either not meeting the air quality standards or are marginal and at risk. Local juris­dic­tions in these counties are required by law to adopt local energy code ordinates that are as stringent or more stringent than the code adopted by the state. Other counties in the state are still required to adopt the state mandated energy code but are allowed to make local amend­ments that make the energy code less stringent. 

For con­trac­tors working in these non-attain­ment areas, the state law requires that buildings be con­struct­ed to the state energy code regard­less of whether the local juris­dic­tion is enforcing it or not. While they may be able to pull a permit and have their projects pass inspec­tion by local author­i­ties, their projects are tech­ni­cal­ly non-con­form­ing legally. For this reason, many con­struc­tion con­sul­tants and legal experts are rec­om­mend­ing that archi­tects and con­trac­tors specif­i­cal­ly design and build their projects in con­for­mance with the 2015 IECC across the state.

How does IECC 2015 change building in Dallas, for example? The amount of added insu­la­tion required for a com­mer­cial building in Dallas, Texas (IECC Zone 3, Pre­scrip­tive R‑value Method) con­struct­ed of light gauge framing is R‑13 in the wall cavities – plus an addi­tion­al R‑7.5 con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion on the outside of the wall. For the same building con­struct­ed of a mass wall system, the code only requires the addition of R‑7.6 of con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion to achieve the same level of performance.

Get ahead of the confusion by designing and building to the new energy code now using a simpler solution such as insulated concrete block. It provides structure, building envelope, fire resis­tance, and increased energy effi­cien­cy that exceeds 2015 IECC energy code require­ments and improves overall building performance.