November 3, 2010
Industry Appeals Stall New Insulation Requirements For Commercial Buildings

Last month, Framework Online featured an update on several major activities that were expected to result in significantly new insulation requirements for steel framed buildings.  It appears that several industry appeals of the ASHRAE 90.1 standard have been upheld by an appeals board.

ASHRAE 90.1 is an energy conservation standard for new commercial buildings and residential buildings over 3 stories.  It is adopted by reference in the ICC International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as an alternative compliance option. 

According to the Steel Framing Alliance allies who submitted successful appeals, at least 3 of 11 known appeals that were submitted were upheld, effectively sending Addendum bb of the proposed 2010 standard back to committee.  Addendum bb contains insulation requirements including those for exterior foam insulation that negatively impact the competitive position of CFS framing.  As a result of the rulings, the 2010 edition of ASHRAE 90.1 will contain the same insulation values as the 2007 edition.

SFA’s specific appeal asked for the replacement of Addendum bb with the 2007 values based on claims that the development committee was unduly influenced by ASHRAE leadership to arrive at a pre-determined outcome and that the committee failed to exercise due diligence in addressing concerns over fire safety.  Although the SFA appeal was not upheld, the appeals panel recommended that the 90.1 committee work with SFA and other affected parties to develop new insulation requirements.  The successful appeals by others achieved the objectives of sending the requirements back to committee.

The timing of these appeals is of interest because of the IECC hearings that are underway as this edition of Framework is being developed.  There were several proposals on the IECC agenda that are intended to place the ASHRAE 90.1 insulation requirements directly into the IECC text.  It now remains unclear how the IECC will be coordinated with 90.1.  However, because of the 90.1 adoption by reference in the IECC, it is likely that the two documents will be considered as equal compliance paths under the IECC.  Designers will thus have a choice to select between the two, providing more choices for CFS buildings at least until the 2015 IECC is published and adopted.

Although the 2007 edition of ASHRAE 90.1 contains some provisions that present challenges to the CFS industry, they are not nearly as stringent as the proposed 2010 requirements in most climate zones.

According to Mark Nowak, president of the Steel Framing Alliance, “The events surrounding the ASHRAE 90.1 appeals will slow the adoption of requirements that had had not been rigorously investigated and in some cases, are technically infeasible and impractical.” 

SFA is in the midst of several research projects that will identify better ways to achieve more efficient designs for CFS construction than the approach in Addendum bb. 

“This will provide us the opportunity to present research findings before the committee as they move forward with the next edition of 90.1 scheduled for 2013,” says Nowak.

Editor's note:  As we approached the November Framework publication deadline, the final action hearings on the IECC energy code are coming to a close.  SFA is pleased to report that our efforts to update R-values for the steel to wood equivalency tables in the code have been approved and will appear in the 2012 edition.  This includes more competitive R-values for 16 inch spaced studs and, for the first time, new table entries to cover 24 inch spaced framing.  More information on the outcome of the IECC hearings will be addressed in future editions of Framework Online.

Editor, Framework Online

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Brought to you by the Steel Framing Alliance (SFA) on the first Wednesday of each month, February through December. Framework Online arms you with important news and commentary on the cold-formed steel (CFS) framing and construction industries.