A recent stakeholder meeting at the State Energy Conservation Office brought homebuilders, insulation and window manufacturers, wood product representatives, city officials and environmental groups out of the woodwork. At issue was how SECO will move forward on possible adoption of the 2012 IECC, a recommendation made by the Energy Systems Laboratory in a report in August of 2012, or alternatively, skipping 2012 altogether and moving forward on the 2015 IECC, which was recently approved nationwide, but is yet to be published. Back in September, Sierra Club released a letter signed by dozens of other groups and individuals, calling on SECO to go ahead and adopt the 2012 IECC. The Energy Systems Lab report found that adopting the 2012 IECC would save between 8 and 18 percent in energy use on an average home in Texas, while the peak demand savings — the amount used on a hot summer day — was even greater. With Texas facing both water and electric shortages, making any new commercial and residential construction meet stricter energy codes would only help our electric grid and water supply. (Power plants use lots of water, and lots of electricity is needed to move water around so any reduction in energy use helps both.)
SECO put forward two options with two different timelines. The first, the “do-nothing” option was to not take action on the 2012 IECC — despite the recommendation from ESL and overwhelming stakeholder support — and wait until the 2015 IECC is published, likely in May of 2014. Thus, analysis and rulemaking would occur over the summer and fall, with an implementation of the 2015 IECC in November of 2015.
The second option — favored by Sierra Club, Public Citizen, the City of Austin, American Chemical Council, US Greenbuilding Council, Texas Chemical Council and the Responsible Energy Codes Alliance among others — would be to begin rule-making now on the 2012 Codes, with approval by January and implementation by November or December of 2014. We spoke out in favor of this second option, since a quick analysis by ESL found there really was no difference between the 2012 and 2015 codes anyway, but spoke of January of 2015 as the implementation date, which would be exactly three years after the 2012 Codes were put into place. Stakeholders liked this option, other than two heavyweights in the room — the Texas Homebuilders Association — which said they wanted to wait until 2015 codes were published, and the Texas Wood Council, which basically said they objected to both the 2012 and 2015 codes, since they didn’t address their concerns, which has to do with the use of plywood and wood studs used in construction. Several folks — including Eric Lacey with RECA — noted that the 2012 codes do not discriminate against wood products, because builders can choose to build under the “performance path” which have overall efficiency requirements, rather than the prescriptive path. Most builders today build through performance not through a checklist.
Stay tuned for what SECO — and its boss — Comptroller Susan Combs — decides to do. In the meantime, many cities like Austin have adopted the 2012 IECC, while Houston is considering moving to 15% above the 2009 IECC. Finally, City Council Member Chris Medina in San Antonio recently drafted a council resolution for San Antonio to adopt the 2012 codes.