Code Updates for Florida and Illinois: Fits and Starts

Florida puts a code roll-back on hold, while Illinois takes steps toward adopting the 2015 IECC.

Florida

HB 915 was introduced in early March, and it aimed to roll the state’s building code back from the recently adopted 2014 version to the 2010 code. This bill, among other things, would have done away with blower door testing in favor of visual inspections for air sealing. After a third reading and at least one amendment, it passed the House and was sent over to the Senate. However, in a surprise move, the Speaker of the House abruptly decided to adjourn for the remainder of the session. All pending legislation was in essence tossed out on May 1.

This stunning decision was apparently the result of a dispute between House and Senate over the Affordable Care Act, even though both chambers are under Republican control. According to one source, the adjournment was tantamount to shutting down the state government. If that is indeed a fair assessment, then building codes are probably not the state’s biggest concern right now. But where does this leave the state’s building industry?

3800s15_iecc_1According to another source we spoke with, in an unfavorable position. Why? The 2014 Florida Building Code calls for a blower door test to confirm a maximum of 5 air changes per hour (ACH). It also requires a whole-house ventilation system when the air infiltration rate is less than 5 ACH. The combination of these two requirements opens the door (pun intended) for higher indoor air quality, but it also makes for higher construction costs. The way the code is written, mechanical ventilation is required for all new construction. In Florida, there are some homes that don’t have furnaces or air conditioning; now, all new homes will have to have one or the other. And because some construction is slab on grade, attics will have to be redesigned to accommodate the ductwork, unless ductless mini-splits are specced.There’s also the matter of who can conduct a blower door test. With the new building code set to go into effect June 29, 2016, there are now training classes popping up so that one can become certified to conduct such a test. In reviewing one such class solicitation, it doesn’t appear that the classes require any building industry experience. Combine that with some builders who have little to no experience with such testing methods, and it could create a scenario where a home fails, but neither the builder nor the tester can identify solutions that would lead to passage on a retest.

Illinois

After months of discussion, the state is moving towards the adoption of the 2015 IECC with amendments. The amendments will include removal of the atmospherically isolated room for mechanicals and retention of the state’s 5 ACH50 requirement in climate zones 4 & 5. The ERI path will remain, but the language has been modified to make clear that the acceptance of that compliance path is left to the code official’s discretion. While there were concerns voiced about the consistency/quality assurance of energy ratings, the ERI path received strong support from the state HBA, the Coalition and (predictably) HERS raters in the state.

Technically, the state hasn’t officially adopted any new energy code yet. The proposed 2015 code was adopted by the Capital Development Board in early June. In mid-to-late June, the energy code will be filed with the Secretary of State and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rule. The governor’s office also needs to approve it. The new energy code is anticipated to go into effect shortly before the end of 2015, if there are no other delays.

References: Florida HB 915 – http://bit.ly/1G5RZe1