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.