New Energy Codes Gaining Traction

4-30 Webinar_Page_17Thomas D. Culp, president of Birch Point Consulting LLC, joined Jason Weber, director of business development for construction products at Sapa Extrusions North America, for a Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) webinar last week, which highlighted the industry’s new energy codes and their implications for extruded aluminum building components.

As evidenced in the presentations, those codes – or at least the concepts they stand for – are here to stay.

The U.S. commercial energy codes are currently dominated by two national model codes: the Energy Standards for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings (ASHRAE 90.1) and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

Culp discussed the basics of current energy and green codes, and more importantly, where they’re headed, which appears to be continuously stricter.

Adoption and enforcement by local jurisdictions of the codes varies significantly across the country, as they can only be enforced on county or municipality basis. But because the industry in general is trending more toward national code standards, Culp says structures in less stringent areas won’t necessarily be devoid of many of the features the codes require.

“Even where code enforcement is lax, these changes will still be seen in specifications and product offerings,” he says.

A big part of the changes will be impacted by the new green building codes, which incorporate similar green concepts as LEED but are written in a code format instead of a points system. The ASHRAE 89.1-2011 and 2014 codes, as well as the 2012 and 2015 International Green Construction Code (IgCC), take into account site selection, water use, material use/recycled content, energy efficiency, renewable energy, indoor environmental quality and commissioning/maintenance.

Culp says the new green codes shouldn’t be the norm for all buildings “but can be the basis for publicly-funded buildings and tax credits.”

For example, the U.S. Army is using ASHRAE 189.1 for its worldwide facilities, and on a state level, Maryland has required its state buildings to use the IgCC. Several states and cities have also adopted IgCC as a voluntary stretch code. Additionally, ASHRAE 189.1 and IgCC are being allowed in many places where LEED is required for governmental buildings.

“It’s still kind of early in being adopted,” Culp says of the trend to IgCC, “but this is a trend we’ll see continue to increase in the coming years.”

Under the new codes, low-E glass is required almost everywhere: for U-factor in the north and solar heat gain coefficient in the south, and broken frames are required in most of the country, with higher performance thermal breaks in the north. The presentation also noted that the code changes will mean an increased use of argon and structural warm-edge spacers, as well as triple glazing in the north for IECC but not ASHRAE 90.1.

“Aluminum-framed windows have evolved with the code and will satisfy code requirements in all climate zones,” says Culp, later noting that the notable new aspects of framing include double thermal barriers, wider thermal barriers, incorporation of composite materials and foam filling.

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