The International Code Council, responsible for energy-efficiency standards for buildings in the U.S., recently issued an update of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Among other changes, the 2012 code contains more stringent requirements for insulation in new buildings throughout most of the U.S. to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.
Energy conservation is a matter of growing importance in the U.S., where buildings account for nearly 40 percent of total energy consumption and 70 percent of electricity use. Although China’s energy consumption is highest in the world, the U.S. ranks No. 1 in per capita use. Due to its significance, the building industry committed itself to make a valuable contribution to reduce per capita energy use in the U.S. This commitment is reflected in the goals set by the U.S. building industry, along with the American Institute of Architects (AIA), to significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
Code compliance can be a significant hurdle for architects, builders and contractors, who need easy-to-install, efficient and cost-effective building solutions. The new minimum standard for insulation will be R-20, where R-value is the measure of heat-flow resistance. As a result, the traditional 2- by 4-inch framed wall with batt insulation does not meet the 2012 code.
Code compliance can now be achieved in two ways: using 2- by 6-inch studs with batt insulation or by adding continuous sheet insulation to 2- by 4-inch stud construction. Continuous sheet insulation attached to studs creates a “wall” next to exterior materials and minimizes heat loss by providing a weather-resistant barrier.
Recognizing the importance of reversing America’s trend with regards to energy, the U.S. government and organizations such as AIA; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); International Code Council (ICC); and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) work to provide design and construction standards to maximize energy efficiency.