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Delaware Adopts New Energy Code

After an exhaustive year long review and discussion between the DNREC Division of Energy and Climate and HBADE, on May 1, 2014 DNREC adopted the 2012 IECC as the statewide requirement for Delaware’s building energy code, with local modifications.  The code requirements will be in place statewide as of November 1, 2014.

As you are probably aware, DNREC sets the energy code requirement which all new homes in Delaware must comply with.  Prior to adoption of the 2012 Energy Code, the 2009 code was the law of the land.

A committee of builders and energy experts representing HBADE held nearly monthly “energy code coalition” meetings with DNREC, local code officials from the 3 Counties and others in 2013.  All of the aspects of the proposed new energy code were thoroughly discussed.  Our interests were to make sure excessive burdensome regulations were not thrust on new home construction without a fair dialogue of the costs and benefits evaluated.  In fact we surveyed our builder members twice last spring to assess the impacts of the proposed new regulations.  Extra costs are always forefront for the homebuilding industry because those extra costs, if there is no offsetting benefit, simply adds to the cost of a new home and makes new homes less affordable.  National studies show that a $1,000 increase in the purchase price of a new homes causes 232,000 buyers to be unable to afford the increase.

In the end, the most significant new requirement embodied in the national energy code was for all homes to meet an air leakage rate of no greater than 3 air changes per hour, which is determined by a blower-door test.  Not only is this a new requirement for many builders, it is a fairly strict requirement that can be difficult to achieve.  In addition, the ability to achieve this becomes much more difficult in smaller homes as the source of  air leakage becomes harder to find.

As a result of our discussions with DNREC and others during the energy code coalition, we came to a consensus for a tiered air leakage rate that meets the energy consumption reductions DNREC was looking to achieve, while allowing a little breathing room for  builders to be able to meet the requirements.  Thus, instead of all homes being required to meet the 3 air-change requirement, the State code will allow new homes under 1500 square feet to adhere to 5 air-changes; and homes 1500 to 2000 square feet will need to achieve 4 air changes.  Thus the offset is that new homes will be more energy efficient thus saving new homebuyers money in terms of operating costs.

True, there are numerous wrinkles in the new code.  We are happy, that in addition to agreeing to a palatable energy code requirement with DNREC, that we all agreed there will need to be how-to training for builders, code officials and everyone else affected by the changes.  We applaud the Division of Energy and Climate for allowing us to work with them, in particular Program Chief Rob Underwood and Program Manager Crystal Nagyiski.

Thanks also to the builders and energy experts which represented HBADE:  Ed Minch of Energy Services Group; Joe Gordon of GreenJoeGreen; Scott Bradley of Bestfield Homes; Fred Fortunato of Benchmark Builders, and Shari Hendley of Fernmoor Homes.

You should look to hear more on energy code change training soon, as the energy code coalition finalizes plans within the next few weeks to roll out the training.

When does the new energy code take effect?  The State regulations stipulate that “all buildings must meet all requirements of the applicable referenced code six months after date of promulgation”.

About HBA of Delaware

HBA/DE has been an integral part of the growth and economic development of the State of Delaware since 1947. HBA/DE was founded as a non-profit state affiliate of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) representing home builders and other businesses directly related to Delaware's Home Building Industry. Consisting of Builders, Remodelers and a group of diversified associate members, the Home Builders Association of Delaware strives to protect and preserve housing as a symbol of America. www.hbade.org

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