Attention building professionals: Effective January 1, 2020, all new construction and renovations in Georgia must comply with new State Minimum Standard Energy Code, the first major revision of the energy code in nearly a decade. The new code includes substantial updates that will improve energy efficiency, as well as indoor air quality, moisture control, ventilation and occupant comfort in both residential and commercial buildings.
The Georgia Energy Code is based on the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC-2015), which establishes minimum design and construction requirements for both residential and commercial buildings. In Georgia, designers and builders in the commercial sector may choose to comply with either the IECC-2015 or ASHRAE 90.1-2013; however, everyone needs to know the 2020 code updates for both residential and commercial buildings, found in the Georgia State Supplements and Amendments.
How Is Southface Institute Involved?
In preparation for rollout of the new code, Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) and the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) contracted with Southface Institute to conduct statewide trainings and develop supplemental resources to assist building professionals across the industry. Led by Senior Technical Principal Mike Barcik, Southface delivered over 50 trainings to over 1000 building code officials, inspectors, builders, designers, contractors and subcontractors during 2019, and more are scheduled in 2020.
“As technology advances and we strive for better buildings, the energy code helps drive us toward major improvements in our built environment,” says Barcik. “I get excited by code changes that will save energy and money while improving health and comfort for the occupants in the real world.”
Highlights of the Residential Code Updates
When asked to cite a few important updates, Barcik lists the following changes in single-family homes:
- Building thermal envelop R-values. Changes involve R-38 ceiling insulation, improved windows and reduced house leakage. Importantly, Appendix RA in the above Georgia State Supplements and Amendments now defines an acceptable grade for the quality of insulation installed.
- Ducted mechanical systems. A tighter 6% duct leakage is now mandated while duct leakage to outside testing is no longer an option. Importantly, backup electric-resistance heat in new-home heat pump systems may not energize until the outside temperature is below 40°F.
- Whole-house ventilation systems. Because of envelope tightness, all new homes with a blower door test of less than 3 ACH50 required a whole-house ventilation system.
- Hot water distribution. The new code now requires insulation for all hot-water piping located outside the thermal envelope, recirculation system piping and for any lines ¾-inch and larger.
Why the Codes Matter
For building owners, the new code means lower utility bills, better building durability, improved acoustics, greater thermal comfort in all seasons, improved moisture control and improved indoor air quality. For builders and subcontractors, strong energy code knowledge can reduce costly callbacks and liability due to noncompliant building components.
All building professionals can best prepare themselves to address the code updates’ challenges by getting trained, so they can be legally compliant and have their buildings pass inspection. Still, any code is just a starting point. Southface encourages building professionals to consider working even beyond the requirements of the code.
“The minimum code represents the worst building that can be constructed by law,” says Barcik. “Builders that want to shine in the industry—providing healthier, more comfortable, more durable and efficient homes—exceed that minimum, and many choose third party-certified programs like EarthCraft to verify their commitment!”
Online Resources and Training Information
Building professionals can also visit southface.org/resources/georgia-energy-code-resources/ to check training dates/locations, explore additional essential resources, including videos, webinars and other tools, and request Southface experts for onsite, custom trainings for professional groups or companies.
Sarah Mundell is Communications Project Manager, Content, at Southface Institute.