Energy Conservation Codes Demystified

Energy Conservation Codes Demystified

Energy conservation codes for houses can at first seem like a complicated and confusing subject.  However, if you hire yourself an experienced residential architect, they can help you deal with energy conservation codes effectively.


Residential  Energy Conservation Codes

An architect who designs mainly custom houses for his clients will have knowledge of energy conservation codes, because he or she needs to build that into their drawings and specifications for your proposed house.  Most people are probably overwhelmed with just the mention that all these new regulations and requirements need to be met for their new house.















Demystifying Energy Conservation Codes

Rand Soellner’s father used to say, “Anything complicated can be broken down into simpler pieces and each of the simple pieces can become understandable.”  Soellner took his father’s advice and said that regarding the energy conservation codes, “these are mainly just words and numbers in the code books.  Even, I, with all my experience in designing houses, can be taken aback with all the incoming new regulations.  So, what did I do?  I read them.  I realized that there is nothing to be concerned about.  Just simple individual things (many of them) that list requirements to make your house tighter and more energy efficient, so that it will consume less energy to make it comfortable for you and your family to enjoy.”

For instance, Soellner is preparing the Construction Documents for a house for a client in Virginia.  The IRC (International Residential Code) applies to all states in the USA now.  The various States can then amend the IRC to make it especially pertinent to their particular concerns and unique environment by either deleting, modifying or adding paragraphs and sections to the IRC.  Local jurisdictions within each state are empowered to grant building permits from the State, so each local building department is required to enforce the IRC as amended by that state.  There typically are various energy conservation requirements in the IRC.


In addition to the IRC, there is the IECC (International Energy Conservation Code).  The IECC is a similar code that encourages energy conservation through efficiency in building thermal envelope design, in addition to lighting, mechanical and other techniques.  The IRC and the IECC have similarities and the IRC refers to the IECC, although these 2 code books are not identical.  Each state has its own energy code. 














State energy codes may refer or borrow a substantial portion of the IECC and perhaps the MEC (the Model Energy Code).  Only a few remaining states, amazingly, have no energy code, or merely recommend certain practices.

The State of Virginia has its own version of the IRC/IECC energy requirements, which Virginia calls the: Virginia Energy Conservation Code.  Much of the Virginia Energy Conservation Code has to do with simple little things that, when viewed as a whole, substantially improve the energy efficiency of your house.

For instance, the Virginia energy code for houses requires the following, among other things:
–  that insulation in walls actually contacts the framing around them.
–  that tears in air barriers are repaired.
–  that attic drop-down panels are sealed and insulated.
–  that the corners of walls are insulated.
– that the spaces behind tubs and showers, when on exterior walls, are insulated instead of bare.
–  that insulation is installed, even in narrow cracks in framing, including all around doors and windows.

Okay then… any of that sound particularly difficult?  Not really.  Now just add a lot more of requirements like these.

Of course, you as the owner of a proposed new house have a lot better things to do in earning your living and enjoying your life than to worry about such requirements such as these.  That is why it would be a very good idea for you to hire an experience residential architect.















By the way, an architect is someone who, in at least one state, went to a major university and successfully passed the architectural curriculum, interned for about a decade under other architects while working on numerous complex projects, took and passed extremely difficult exams and became licensed.  There is a huge difference between this, a real architect and someone who “just draws plans.”  The plan drawer is highly unlikely to be aware of many, if any of these energy code requirements, because he has no license, and therefore, no governmental entity watching what he is doing: he doesn’t have to worry about it.


But you should.  And for 2 reasons:
1.  it’s your house and your monthly energy bills will be lower if your house is properly designed to comply with prevailing energy codes.
2.  you may get into a lot of trouble trying to permit your house, due to deficient drawings and lack of proper specifications, and if you do get under construction with inadequate documents, you may get “red-tagged” by the building inspector when he notices, during construction, that your house does not have certain energy-compliant features that are required.  Then you can have a real headache on your hands.  You will have to pay your builder to correct things after they have been built.  And that can be very expensive.


So do yourself a huge favor and engage an experienced residential architect to design your house, with the energy-efficient features built in before you begin construction.

Call  for energy efficient house design services: 1-828-269-9046.

tags: custom, atlanta, chicago, denver, aspen, telluride, timber frame, cashiers, highlands, las vegas, los angeles, los altos, tacoma, hendersonville, charlotte, orlando, des moines, kansas city

1 Comment

  • rand

    6:44 am - June 9, 2011

    good post

Leave A Comment