Illinois Builders Brace for New Environmental Regulations

by Chicago Agent

New environmental regulations have some builders fearful of additional costs come 2013.

Builder confidence is one of the main areas of focus for real estate, and it will be particularly interesting how builders in Illinois react to a series of environmentally-conscious regulations currently working their way through the state government.

Next week, the Illinois House is expected to delay the state’s adoption of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code, or IECC, to January 1, 2013. Originally set to go into effect July 1 of this year, the IECC includes a number of specifications for builders to increase the energy efficiency of single-family homes – specifications the Home Builders Association of Illinois has argued will add thousands of dollars to the cost of the home’s construction.

Thus, the association lobbied to have the regulations delayed, so builders would have more time to acclimate themselves with the particulars, which include:

  • Increased R-values in attic to R49 from R38: Add $1,000
  • Increased R-values in basement to R15/19 from R10/3: Add $1,700
  • Mandatory Blower-door and Ductblaster tests: Add $1,000
  • Increased sealing of the house to meet the blower-door test requirement of three air changes per hour: Add $1,000
  • Mandatory duct sealing, even when completely in conditioned space: Add $500
  • Mandatory ducting and sealing of return air plenums and chases: Add $500
  • Mandatory HVAC equipment size using Manual J: Add $500

Those projects, and their accompanying costs, were provided to Builder magazine by Bill Ward, the HBA’s executive vice president, and were projected for a 2,000-square-foot home built in central Illinois. Builder also mentioned several other possible code changes that were pointed out by HVACR Business Magazine, which include:

  • Exterior walls must have an R-value of either 20 or 13+5.
  • New wood-burning fireplaces must have right-fitting flu dampers and outside combustion air.
  • A minimum of 75 percent of permanent lamps must be rated high efficiency. And fuel gas ignition systems can’t use standing pilots.

The HBA, according to Builder‘s piece, tried to have several elements of the IECC altered, but it only succeeded on one count, in changing the blower-door test to five air changes per hour instead of three. Its other suggestions (including a prescriptive solution to the blower test) did not pan out, and now it’s set its sights on a proposed mandate to install fire sprinklers in all new residential construction, which will depend in large part on recommendations from the fire marshal’s upcoming report.

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