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Sat, June 15

Prescott adopts new building and energy efficiency codes

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On Jan. 1, Prescott implemented the 2012 international building and energy codes. This is a major improvement for home building quality since the 2006 codes.

The city described the adoption as follows: "There are a number of important reasons to adopt the 2012 International Building Safety, Fire and Wildland-Urban Interface codes: greater flexibility in construction materials that contractors can use; more options in building design and ability to use state of the art building technology." Prescott's adoption also provides consistency in the region because Prescott Valley implemented the codes in July 2014 and Yavapai County also implemented on Jan. 1, 2015.

Another reason is our Insurance Services Office rating. The City of Prescott recently underwent an ISO audit and the rating was downgraded significantly; primarily due to not being on the current codes. This increases home insurance premiums in the area. Adopting the new codes should bring us back in line with before.

There are a significant number of changes in the 2015 building codes; however, I am only going to address the new 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) designated Energy Code: "The provisions of the 2012 edition of the IECC shall apply to all matters governing the design and construction of buildings for energy efficiency. The provisions of the 2012 IECC shall apply to detached one-and-two family dwellings, multiple single family dwellings (townhomes), their accessory structures and commercial projects."

So what does all this mean for a new home buyer? It means that your new home will be more energy efficient. Your home will be better sealed from the outside harsh environment; you will heat and cool your home for less money, and you shouldn't have drafts or hot and cold rooms. Dampness should be a thing of the past and pests will have a tougher time getting inside. In all you will spend less money on energy and live in more comfortable and healthy environment.

One major improvement is that the dwelling will be inspected and tested for energy efficiency by the towns building authority. One major energy deficiency (up to 40 percent) in a home is that of air and moisture leakage; that is holes in the building envelope that air, moisture and insects penetrate. New homes will be tested to see how much leakage is present and if it is higher than three Air Changes per Hour (ACH) (home air volume) it has to be corrected by further sealing.

Other changes include higher insulation levels for walls and ceilings, higher standards for windows and doors and higher specifications for heating/cooling and hot water systems. Lighting components must also use low energy products.

A very useful addition for the homebuyer is a mandatory and permanent energy certificate posted on the electrical distribution panel by the builder. The certificate lists the predominant insulation levels installed in or on the ceiling or roof, walls, foundation (slab, basement wall, crawlspace wall and/or floor) and ducts outside conditioned space. Also included is the thermal conduction (U) and solar heat gain (SHGC) of fenestration (windows). The certificate also lists types and efficiencies of heating, cooling and water heating equipment. It summarizes the homes overall energy efficiency, and combined with an energy use estimate (utility bills) should be part of a real estate agents MLS listing.

For existing homes an energy audit based on the SRS or APS $99 program should also provide a certificate with these parameters, but it doesn't, it is basically a sales tool to sell energy upgrades for the auditor who must be a contractor according to APS and SRS. It will be interesting to see how honest this new process will be, as contractors will be testing contractors and how the building inspectors will visually verify results on the certificate.

As with all consumer quality programs it will be interesting to see how this one turns out and how homeowners will value it. The main advantage is that new homes should be built to a higher standard thanks to the federal government insisting on these new international standards.

For more information contact Paul Scrivens at www.greenhomeenergyadvisors.com.

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