La Plata County’s energy efficiency codes for residential and commercial buildings are expected to make a significant leap this year, increasing current efficiency standards by about 15 percent.
Currently adhering to 10-year-old international standards, the county is years behind on its building code. That, as well as the energy conservation code, which is separate from the international residential building codes, are due to be updated sometime this year.
Energy efficiency standards are based on climate zones, and they’re updated every three years. Unlike international residential codes, they address commercial as well as residential buildings, and standards apply to repairs, alterations and additions.
The county currently follows 2003 energy efficiency standards and would upgrade the code to 2009 standards. Upgrading to the most recent, 2015 standards would be too excessive a leap for local builders, La Plata County Building Department Director Butch Knowlton said. “Energy efficiency is some home buyers’ first question about a house,” Knowlton said in a meeting earlier this year with county commissioners. “We want to make sure homes are sealed better, and the 2009 energy codes address that. The newer code would change requirements related to insulation.”
The focus of the newer standards is on controlling insulation levels and solar heat gain in the building envelope, which includes fenestration, ceilings, walls, floors, foundations and crawl spaces.
The most consequential upgrades to the energy code would affect wood-burning fireplaces, which would be required to have sealed doors and draw combustion air from the outside. They also would need to meet more rigorous inspection of a structure’s air-tightness, which must be demonstrated through testing and/or rigorous inspection.
Also in the 2009 version, energy conservation requirements are required for pools, including time switches to turn heaters off and vapor covers.
A minimum of 50 percent of lamps in permanently installed lighting fixtures must be high-efficiency lamps.
Roofs also would have to have insulation where the wall and roofline meet, leaving no cold corners where condensation could build.
International building codes and energy conservation codes can be reviewed at codes.iccsafe.org.