New state code could ask more of builders

The new State Building Code, planned for adoption in the fall, could cost residential and commercial builders more time and more project money.

A draft of the code hasn’t been published yet, but building inspectors across Connecticut have some idea of what’s being kicked around because they’ve been taking classes on the proposed changes.

Wilton building official Bob Root said he’s been attending these classes for two years now, and he thinks the new code will “tighten up” energy requirements and, in some areas, affect what products builders use.

“It all depends on how the state adopts it,” Root said, but as far as he can tell, “changes to the energy code are probably going to be the biggest ones for cost.

“Builders may have to use a different air barrier — a different thickness of insulation,” he said.

This would mean that “more care — and more time — would be needed to install house wrap and window wrap so air doesn’t leak out [during testing].”

“The number of air-changes per hour in a dwelling, in other words, how much air is expelled and changed in a dwelling — how much fresh air goes in and out — will go from, I think, seven to two and a half changes per hour, so [energy requirements of] all houses would be tightened up,” Root continued.

“That’s pushed by the Department of Energy. They want to reduce the amount of energy people need to heat and cool and light their homes.”

Residential builders could also have to pay for blower door tests — additional testing they are not now required to do.

“The new code will probably require blower door tests for new homes,” Root said. “That’s when they seal all the openings in a house and put a blower door on the front door and reduce pressure in the house and see how much air comes in the windows and other openings.”

If the code gets adopted as it’s being written now, Root continued, residential builders may also have to install drywall on the basement ceilings of homes where the first-level floor is made of engineered lumber, because engineered lumber “burns a lot faster than old dimensional lumber,” such as two-by-tens or two-by-fours.

“It’s basically to protect from fire,” he said.


Other potential building code changes include “some changes on where ground faults are needed, arc faults are needed, different kinds of circuit protection,” Root said.

“I’ve taken a number of classes on the electrical and energy code changes, but I haven’t really taken many on mechanical or plumbing,” he added. If there are mechanical and/or plumbing code changes being proposed that would increase commercial and/or residential project costs, he does not yet know about them.

While the office of the state building inspector’s website points to this fall for adoption of the new State Building Code, Root said, “you never know.”

“Last time we had a code change coming, we were led to believe it was going to be in May or June, and it got pushed to March 1, and we only heard about it in December,” he said.

The new State Building Code will be a supplement of Connecticut-specific items built onto the International Code Council’s 2012 Family of Codes.

It will also reflect the National Fire Protection Association’s 2014 National Electrical Code.