Along with kids returning to school, this year September marks the beginning of some green changes within the building industry. Virginia adopted a new residential building code on June 21, 2010, this code is referred to as the 2009 IECC (International Energy Conservation Code). This change goes into effect on September 30th. The Commonwealth has established a grace period where the existing building code, the 2006 IECC, or the new 2009 Code can be used for a period of one year. After that, only the 2009 Code will apply.
So the obvious question is how is this going to affect me? If you plan on building a new home in the next year, you will have to choose which code you want your house built to. Which one should you choose? How are they different? The 2009 code has new requirements for testing your home to prove its energy efficiency. The ductwork must be tested using a Duct Blaster. After sealing off the supply registers and return vents, this specialized equipment draws the air out of your ductwork and measures the amount of air moving through the fan. This measured amount of air is called the leakage rate. Sealing your ductwork has been a requirement of the building code for years but the problem has been verifying that it is sealed. A visual inspection, which is all a building inspector can do, can allow unsealed ductwork to pass inspection. Studies show that 80% of the ductwork that passes inspection does not meet the standard for duct leakage. Testing will require that all ductwork be sealed correctly which will result in tremendous savings for the homeowners.
Another requirement of the new code is that all basement walls have a minimum of R-10 insulation. Currently basements have no insulation. My house was built with concrete block walls and no insulation around the band board where the wood framing meets the concrete block. It is too cold to be usable in the winter and too damp to be comfortable in the summer. If my house had been built under the 2009 code, my basement would be a functioning part of my house instead of just a storage area for things that I don’t mind if they mildew.
All of these new requirements do come with a cost. I sat down with my certified RESNET Rater, my husband, and we did some calculating to total up the additional costs that would be incurred building to the new code. The figure we came up with was around $1,200 for the average 2400 s.f. two story house. Just to be generous, for our calculations, we decided to go with $5,000 which is a figure I have heard some people who don’t like the new code use.
Purchasing this average house for $240,000 with a 5% mortgage amortized over 30 years would make your monthly payment $1,288.37. Adding the $5,000 to the purchase price to cover the new code items would raise your monthly payment to $1,315.21 a difference of $26.84 per month. The monthly savings of building to the new 2009 code would be $225 per month. So even though the initial sales cost was more, the monthly payment of both mortgage and utilities would be considerably less. And add to that that you have a house that is worth more. Not to mention, that in a year when everyone else’s houses are being built to perform better, you won’t be in last year’s model.
So, is it worth it? Well, only if you want to save money, live in a more comfortable house, increase your net worth, and save the planet, that’s all.
Want to learn more about building green or how to make your existing house meet the new codes? Check out the classes at Rappahannock Community College this fall at https://www.rappahannock.edu/workforce/go-green/ and come armed with questions, I love questions.