Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Is Modular Housing Ready for Section 410?

Is DOE’s Energy Code Deadline a Looming ‘Volkswagen Crisis’ for the Building Sector?

“If a manufacturer of consumer goods in the U.S. engaged in this type of willful negligence, they’d surely end up in court. But the housing industry gets away with it.”

In 2009, desperate for economic relief, governors of all 50 U.S. states pledged to increase energy efficiency in buildings in exchange for a combined $3.1 billion in state energy program funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

While a larger share of Recovery Act funds was poured into other longstanding programs, such as weatherization, a provision of the bill, Section 410, linked state energy program funding to tougher energy codes for new construction and major renovations.

About 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption provides heat, cooling and power to buildings. Building energy codes are widely seen as cost-effective policy tools to combat emissions, lower homeowner utility costs, and increase home comfort and value.

Section 410 required states not only to implement codes that met or exceeded the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code and the 2007 ASHRAE 90.1 standard for houses and commercial facilities, respectively, but also to develop a plan to achieve compliance “within 8 at least 90 percent of new and renovated residential and commercial building space.”

Reaching that target now appears unlikely. Predictably, the strings attached to the Recovery Act funding stirred controversy among a few governors at the time -- most notably Alaska’s Sarah Palin, whose veto prompted a rare threat of legislative override. All states eventually accepted the money, but now, seven years later, 16 still either lack a statewide energy code altogether or have old codes that fall short of the ARRA requirements.

Chris Dorsi, founder of Habitat X, a North American sustainable-housing think tank, says that although patchwork code adoption is a problem nationwide, a greater cause for concern is compliance among builders, even in states where reasonably strong energy codes already exist.
“The vast majority of homebuyers -- whether they buy new or existing homes -- assume that their purchase is protected by layers of government oversight,” he said. “But when it comes to energy codes in residential construction, all bets are off. Tradespeople often have not been trained to perform the code-required installation and testing, contractors are under financial pressure to their low-bid competitors, and code inspectors often don’t care or even know the difference."

"If a manufacturer of consumer goods in the U.S. engaged in this type of willful negligence, they’d surely end up in court. But the housing industry gets away with it. It’s as if we have a Volkswagen-type scandal in our midst," said Dorsi.

1 comment:

Steve L said...

In CA., Net Zero new home construction begins Jan 1, 2020. Our modular homes are compliant today. In many instances the modular building envelope is made exact and efficient versus a site built. The trouble is site built versus modular has a public perception problem and site builders discourage it. Modular can compete and exceed this energy code updates. Our real life results indicate it can be done.