In 2014, Virginia adopted the 2012 IECC model code with many weakening amendments. In the case of the residential codes section, Virginia’s amendments created a code that looked more like the 2009 IECC model code rather than the 2012 IECC model. While a few efficiency proposals were included — insulation on some hot water pipes and lowering the allowable limits for duct leakage and home envelope air-tightness — the option for visual inspection for both home air-tightness and duct leakage remains today.
The VAEEC recommends that Virginia adopt the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) building codes without alteration. Advanced energy codes are among the most cost-effective methods of saving energy, lowering the total cost of housing, improving health and comfort in homes, and improving quality throughout the homebuilding industry.
Not to mention, people want it. In an Energy Pulse survey by The Shelton Group, homebuyers prioritized costs associated with added comfort and energy efficiency over other expenditures.
A 2013 survey by the National Association of Homebuilders reported that 9 out of 10 homebuyers are willing to pay 2-3% more for a home that includes permanent energy efficiency features.
Per Virginia custom, amendments made in previous years stand until they are expressly removed or altered by the board. Given that the 2015 IECC residential requirements largely mirror the 2012 IECC in terms of overall efficiency, if Virginia does not adopt these new 2015 standards, we will remain woefully behind our neighbors who have already adopted the latest model code.
While the VAEEC continues to advocate for the adoption of the IECC model code without revision, we are specifically seeking the inclusion of the following requirements:
- Blower door tests for whole home air-tightness
- Pressure testing for air duct tightness
- Improved wall and ceiling insulation values
According to the Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP): “For the average new home [in Virginia], the 2012 IECC will only increase construction costs by $2,197.” Amortized over a 30-year mortgage at today’s rates, that is less than $11 a month on the monthly mortgage bill.9 Couple that cost with the estimated energy bill savings of nearly $31 a month, and homeowners would actually begin saving nearly $270 annually, before their second anniversary of home ownership.
Building more efficient homes is also good for the environment. If Virginia adopted the 2015 model code as is, with no alterations, Virginia homeowners would save $2.5 billion between 2010-2040 and avoid nearly 16 million metric tons of carbon emissions,11 which is equivalent to saving the amount of energy consumed by 1.6 million homes in a single year.
VAEEC believes it is time for the Commonwealth’s building codes to catch up with the national model code’s minimum requirements for safety, efficiency, and reliability when it comes to building construction. Virginia homeowners and homebuyers deserve a modern-day code that reflects our desire for high-performing homes and forward-thinking energy policies.
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