With the highest energy-efficiency standards yet promulgated, the experience of the company building your new home matters more than ever before
According to Ron Wesche of T&G Builders, Worcester County once again demonstrated its reputation as a forward-thinking community by being among the first counties in the United States to embrace the residential guidelines of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) in their entirety. The most stringent residential building codes yet promulgated, these changes are likely to be a cause of frustration for many as they go through the learning curve, but not for T&G, which has already completed many such homes.
“In the early 90s, T&G was one of the original Energy Star-certified builders for this area,” said Ron Wesche, T&G’s sales manager, “so making the transition to even higher standards hasn’t been an issue for us. On the contrary, we welcome the new codes; it’s good for the individual homeowner and for the environment as a whole.”
Adopted by the county in July 2012, the IECC residential codes go far beyond what builders and homeowners had become accustomed to with Energy Star. One such change for T&G was to make all homes a two-by-six exterior wall construction. It was the most practical and desired method to obtain the new, higher R-values required. (Code does not require two-by-sixes, just the higher R-value.)
“The two-by-sixes not only provide greater structural integrity,” Wesche advised, “the larger cavity allows owners the option to exceed county insulation requirements, whether using foam, standard insulation or another application.
Wesche added that the new code requires an independent agency to perform a blower door test on each newly constructed home, to measure unconditioned air infiltration into the structure and test duct-work air-tightness, as well as minimize air leakage of conditioned air in the home. The end result is a home with less than 4% air leakage and a homeowner that gets the most from every dollar spent on energy to maintain their home at the comfort level they desire.
“New houses also must incorporate a make-up air system in order for the home to breathe,” Wesche said, “with no more
than three air exchanges occurring per day.”
How much are these new rules going to affect the construction costs of new homes? Not much, according to Wesche, who said that for firms like T&G, which were Energy Star compliant, the additional costs should be less than 2% on average, though builders who weren’t with the Energy Star program will likely experience cost increases in excess of that.
“At the end of the day, this is actually good news all around,” Wesche said. “First, the entire burden of compliance is on the shoulders of the builder; there will be no compliance responsibility on the part of the homeowner. Second, these homes are going to reduce energy consumption by the owners and by the community at large, all of which helps mitigate the escalating cost of heating, air-conditioning and energy consumption in general. It also reduces our dependency on foreign energy sources, which is important economically, politically and environmentally, in terms of the effects of global warming.
“Not to be overlooked either is that these homes will not only increase in value more than noncompliant homes in the area,” Wesche continued, “buyers may also expect them to be more comfortable, healthier and more durable than their noncompliant counterparts.”
Wesche concluded by suggesting residents explore the tax credits and/or rebates available by various government agencies for the use of energy-efficient products such as geothermal and solar heating, as well as high-efficiency heat pumps. As local
experts when it comes to the construction of state-of-the-art energy-efficient homes, T&G encourages those who have questions about the new codes or who may be contemplating building a new home in Worcester County to give them a call.
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