Codes & Standards

Cracking the Code

The loss of human lives and the loss of property have driven the need for building codes and standards. Most people are well aware of this fact and would agree that these codes and standards are necessary to protect the public welfare. In simple terms, buildings must be safe to use and occupy; this includes being structurally sound, being constructed of the proper materials, having adequate means of egress in the event of an emergency, providing the proper heating, cooling and/or ventilation – just to name a few considerations. Codes and standards address all of these issues. Unfortunately, deciphering exactly... Read More

The Competition for Supply & Demand Reduction

In Volume 11 of The ReeSource, I discussed changes that were occurring in the energy industry as a result of deregulation. At that time, electric utilities were in a period of transition from the traditional arrangement where they were each the only supplier of electricity to customers within their specific geographic regions to one where they would have to compete with other utility companies. The transition period has now passed, and open competition for the supply of electricity is a reality. Meanwhile, the growing interest in energy efficiency his driven the passage of new laws in a number of states... Read More

Extinguishing the Fire Sprinkler Debate

With so many advances in technology, building materials, and life safety systems, it is no surprise that building construction techniques and the design process have also evolved. On the coattails of these advances in the industry come requisite changes in code requirements. Many of the code changes are heavily debated on local and national platforms, but few have sparked more conversation than the recent changes to the International Residential Code (IRC) mandating the installation of residential fire sprinkler systems in one- and two-family dwellings and townhomes. In December of 2008, the International Code Council (ICC) voted to reject an appeal... Read More

Hung Out Too Dry? Humidify!

The average American spends up to 85% of each day indoors. Whether at home, work, or school, our spending the majority of our time inside places tremendous importance on maintaining a comfortable indoor environment. Consequently, building heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems must be designed to promote occupant health and comfort. Several factors can influence occupant comfort levels including temperature, humidity, air speed, clothing level, and metabolic rate. While temperature tends to be the most obvious factor, humidity also plays a major role in determining the perception of an environment. The saying that ‘you can’t please everyone all of the... Read More

Flipping the Switch Without Lifting a Finger

With the adoption of new state and local energy standards aimed at reducing global energy consumption, virtually every non-residential building will be facing more stringent lighting control requirements. Whether these standards are based upon ASHRAE Standard 90.1, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), or a particular state-developed provision, meeting the requirements with a flexible, easy-to-use, and economical lighting control system may seem impossible. Nevertheless, through the aid of advancing technology a lighting control system can be achieved that eliminates energy waste, while creating a cost-effective and user-friendly environment. With few exceptions, both ASHRAE 90.1 and the IECC state that the... Read More

Chilling Out with Refrigerants

Up until the mid-1980’s, the type of refrigerant to be used in a building’s cooling system was, at best, an afterthought of the consulting engineer and building owner. But increasing awareness of the harm that once-common chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants were causing to the ozone layer forced the industry to find alternatives. Part of the industry’s response was to use hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants, such as R-123 and R-22, which have a much lower impact on the ozone layer compared to CFCs. However, the Montreal Protocol, signed by over 190 countries in 1987, called for the eventual phase-out of HCFCs due to... Read More

Venting About Dryers

There is more to know about cleaning laundry than separating whites and colors. While it is easy to overlook what goes on behind the scenes, a ‘hands off’ approach to laundry functions can lead to higher operating costs and safety concerns. Dryer exhaust systems function to remove irritating and potentially harmful moisture, odors, and exhaust gases. A typical residential dryer can remove up to one gallon of water from a single load of laundry. Without exhaust systems, high concentrations of moisture in laundry rooms would promote mold and mildew growth, leading to health and possibly structural problems. “Signs of dryer... Read More

Rules & (De)Regulations

As the debate over global warming and energy usage grows and the building industry increasingly turns toward ‘green’ approaches to design and construction, cost-benefit analyses of alternative building methods have become more significant. Because the cost of energy is a critical component in most of these studies, it is important to consider the impact that the deregulation of the electric and natural gas industries can have on that cost. “In an attempt to encourage innovation and free-market competition, the federal government began the process of utility deregulation in 1978…” The natural gas and electric industries are similarly structured in that... Read More

A Sprinkling of Code Change

Among the code changes currently under consideration by the International Code Council (the governing body of the International Building Codes) is one that would mandate the installation of residential sprinkler systems in one- and two-family dwellings, as well as manufactured homes. Though the desire to require residential sprinklers is not new, the momentum and support for making these changes is growing. In fact, those in favor of these code revisions believe the 2009 International Building Code could mandate sprinklers for all dwelling units. If adopted, the standard would be added to Chapter 43 of the National Fire Protection Agency NFPA... Read More

Getting SEERious for the Moment

Starting January 23, 2006, the Department of Energy (DOE) will begin to enforce legislation that will increase the minimum SEER required for residential air conditioners from 10 to 13 SEER, thereby instituting a substantial reduction in the energy consumption of residential air conditioners. The last time the US government increased minimum energy efficiency requirements for residential air conditioners was in 1992. At that time, SEER requirements were raised from 8 to 10. “The Alliance to Save Energy believes that increasing the minimum SEER rating to 13 may save the country as many as 150 new power plants.” SEER stands for... Read More