New codes emphasize the need to maximize the energy efficiency of the building envelope.
Contractors are continually challenged by the ever-evolving standards related to building codes and energy efficiency. The volume of changes and the risk potential if the codes are not heeded places additional pressure on mid-sized contractors, who don’t have the resources to stay up-to-date on today’s “alphabet soup of codes.”
Numerous codes, standards and programs impacting the construction industry have been modified or newly created for 2012. Adding to the complexity is that some are voluntary while others are mandatory. Contractors should get a head start on understanding these new standards and how they may impact the design and construction of new commercial buildings, as well as renovation projects for existing structures. In particular, commercial roofing assemblies will be one of the areas most impacted by these changes.
Know the Codes
Perhaps the most noteworthy changes are those prescribed in the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which calls for buildings to achieve a 30-percent increase in energy efficiencies over the 2006 IECC. This sixth edition of the code illustrates the growing importance of ensuring that all buildings achieve high levels of energy efficiency in congruence with model building codes.
According to the International Code Council (ICC), this comprehensive set of changes includes measures to improve the building envelope, HVAC systems and electrical systems of residential buildings up to three stories in height. Commercial building enhancements include increased efficiencies for installed HVAC equipment and required energy efficiency rates for windows, doors, skylights and the building envelope.
Later this year, the U.S. Green Building Council will release its 2012 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating systems. Though still a draft, this year’s version is expected to favor a more holistic, lifecycle-focused approach for products installed in LEED certified buildings. The new ratings will reward transparency for sustainable manufacturing, socially responsible raw materials sourcing and use of products with low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
Released last March as the first green building code from the ICC code development process, the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) is designed to reduce the negative impacts of construction on the natural environment. It was created by a broad-based committee with experts in government, business, academia, code development/enforcement, engineering and environmental advocacy.
The IgCC will go beyond traditional life/safety model codes and simulate some voluntary program requirements for commercial buildings to provide both safe and sustainable buildings. It will be used to incorporate sustainable practices within existing building codes at the state and/or jurisdictional level.
Protect Your Roofing Assemblies
A number of provisions in the energy code will impact the roofing industry. The IECC calls for an insulation increase in low-slope roofs with above-deck insulation, which will reduce a building’s total energy use. The code includes prescriptive R-value and U-value requirements for above-deck insulation by climate zone, where R-value measures the building’s thermal resistance and U-value measures an assembly’s rate of non-solar heat flow. With preparation, these prescribed values are easy to follow.
The 2012 IECC also details solar reflectance and thermal emittance requirements, providing options for low-slope roofs in southern climate zones and the minimum thermal resistance (in both R-value and U-value) of the insulating material required in roof assemblies.
With this year’s new shift toward energy efficiency and environmental awareness, the 2012 codes reinforce the overall importance of high-performance roofing systems as part of the building envelope. Now more than ever, a well-insulated and well-protected roof is critical in new or renovated commercial buildings.
Codes and programs are defining a new role for commercial roofing that goes beyond the practical need to maximize energy efficiencies. Commercial roofs have become multi-use platforms that house a myriad of renewable energy systems and environmental features, such as photovoltaic (PV) and vegetative roofs. These emerging assemblies, while enhancing the environmental and energy performance of a building, have added considerably to the foot traffic of the modern commercial roof.
Frequent foot traffic increases overall when additional equipment, PV panels or vegetation is installed and needs to be maintained. These roof assemblies will bear a more taxing load that could stress the roofing systems beyond their normal capabilities. With the added economic risk that leaks, cracks and other damages could impart, and the value of durable and high-performing roofs grows exponentially.
The new and revised codes require roofing systems that are more complex and need more protective measures to increase their durability. The right premium cover board will help maintain the strength, durability and energy performance of a roofing system, allowing it protect the building owner’s investment and support the tenants’ daily needs. Cover boards take on added importance given the added costs and complexity of the systems they protect and the potential dangers.
Whatever roofing system you choose, make sure to select a durable cover board that will protect the insulation needed for energy code and building program roof assembly R-values. While the prescriptive R-values vary by climate zone, every code or program requires some level of continuous insulation above the deck. As the amount of insulation increases, so does your need for adequate roofing protection.
The numerous codes and guidelines implemented in 2012 will soon become effective. In the meantime, make sure you carefully review those codes impacting your projects—for roofs and throughout the building envelope—to ensure that your buildings and reputation are properly protected.