In May, Ohio adopted a new residential building code requiring new homes to be more energy-efficient, be tested for air leaks and come with carbon monoxide detectors. The code is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2013.
The new rules are estimated to add between $1,100 and $1,200 to the cost of a 1,800-square-foot two-story home. Homeowners can expect reductions in their utility bills, justifying the increased cost of construction. A similar code change in Boston back in 2009 found homeowners could save approximately $230 a year in energy costs with the new rules in place.
Among other code requirements, carbon-monoxide detectors must be installed outside each bedroom in a home that uses gas or propane or includes an attached garage. Homes must meet an air-tightness standard that includes a blower-door test, in addition to the requirement that at least 75% of light bulbs must be high-efficiency, such as compact fluorescent bulbs.
• Require that floor joists between the basement and first floor that are less than 10 inches deep include a gypsum or wood layer underneath for additional fire protection.
• Increase the efficiency of windows by reducing the maximum U-value from .40 to .35.
• Remove the requirement that sump pumps and garage door openers be plugged into GFCI outlets after homeowners complained that sump pumps and garage openers were kicking off.
While it won't radically change the way homes are constructed, the code had sparked considerable debate since its introduction more than three years ago.
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club favored the tougher energy requirements, while Ohio homebuilders argued the new code would excessively boost the cost of a new home.
The Ohio Home Builders Association opposed the initial proposal. But at the urging of builders, the code now includes a compromise provision to provide contractors two ways to meet the tougher energy requirements. They can either follow the International Code Council guidelines or follow an alternative set of guidelines designed by builders to achieve the same energy efficiency.
"I think they came up with a code that works," Vincent Squillace, executive vice president of the Ohio Home Builders Association, told the newspaper. "We came up with an equivalent code that's more strict but is about $2,000 cheaper per home to implement than the original code."
Debbie Ohler, staff engineer for the Ohio Board of Building Standards, said the code also recognizes new materials and methods of construction. The board will administer the code.
"It's definitely an improvement," Ohler told the media. "It also incorporates requirements that provide for safer homes, but at the same time, it incorporates more stringent energy requirements, which should save homeowners money."