An Andy's Frozen Custard store is under construction at the intersection of South National Avenue and East Elm Street in Springfield. (Photo by Rance Burger)

The Springfield City Council updated the version of the building codes that contractors must follow for commercial buildings, and an update that will affect residential construction, homebuyers and housing developments is up next.

While the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code will be used in commercial spaces with little blowback from contractors or from environmental groups, debate over using the International Energy Conservation Code for residential construction may be more intense. Certain provisions of the commercial code were excluded from the council bill for commercial buildings adopted by a 9-0 council vote on May 2, and compromises are likely as the Springfield Department of Building Development Services (BDS) prepares to present residential construction recommendations at the end of May or in early June.


Summary

The Springfield City Council is working on updates to the different codes that govern residential and commercial construction. At the beginning of May, the Springfield City Council adopted the commercial provisions of the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code, and will consider energy code updates for residential construction soon.


Springfield Building Development Services Interim Director Brock Rowe said that the residential codes for energy efficiency are duplicated in the 2018 International Residential Code, which Springfield uses, according to the Building and Development Services website

LED changed the game

When it came time to vote on the commercial code package, Councilman Mike Schilling asked about a provision in the bill that stripped away a requirement for lighting control systems in certain commercial buildings. Rowe said including a requirement for lighting control systems would have been a case where the intent did not justify the higher cost, especially as light-emitting diode (LED) lights replace the lightbulbs of generations past.

An LED bulb designed to replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb only requires about six watts, Rowe said. He shared some estimates on the lower costs of using LED lights based on current power prices in Springfield, with the idea that an LED bulb in a new commercial building would be left on at all times.

“That translates to about $2.90 a year if they stayed on,” Rowe said. “If we left it on for 24 hours a day and left it on for a month, it would only be about a quarter, about 24 cents for a light staying on for about 24 hours a day.”

Rowe said that it was also reasonable and cost effective to cut out requirements for light controls or sensors designed to shut off lights when a building, or even certain rooms in a building, are not in use.

“The cost of a receptacle switch that was sensitive to people walking in the room, or to light, and things like that — they start out at around $23 and can be in the upwards range of $500-600 based on what type of system you get,” Rowe said.

Commercial building projects in Springfield are subject to a set of building codes published in 2018 and enacted by the Springfield City Council. (Photo by Rance Burger)

The other key exception was a list of provisions governing outdoor lighting. Rowe said Springfield already has ordinances that control light pollution in parking lots or other exterior structures. Enforcement of nuisance lighting laws is done on a case-by-case basis when people bring forward complaints about lights.

Rowe said that outdoor lighting has also undergone some natural energy-conserving evolution with the development of solid-state lights, such as LED lights. The use of LED lights, and the gradual phasing out of incandescent bulbs and lamps in outdoor settings could reportedly cut electricity consumption by 46 percent from its current rate by 2030, according to data Rowe obtained from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Input from different stakeholders

Councilman Craig Hosmer asked about the input that the Department of Business Development Services gathered from different groups with interest in building codes. Input came from the White River Group of the Missouri Sierra Club, the Springfield Contractors Association, the Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield, the Springfield Chamber of Commerce Growth and Development Committee and the American Institute of Architects of Springfield.

In its official literature, the Sierra Club states that its mission is “to explore, enjoy and protect the planet.” Its members regularly lobby local, state and national lawmakers on issues related to conservation, energy, climate and the natural environment.

“So did the Sierra Club get any modifications, or was it just the business community?” Hosmer asked.

“The Sierra Club wanted a complete adoption, but we felt that these modifications were reasonable,” Rowe said.

Certain types of storage buildings, airplane hangars, agricultural storage buildings and certain types of large manufacturing buildings are exempt from the energy codes, according to a modification made that is specific to Springfield. Rowe said this is done because most of the exempt buildings don’t require a great deal of energy to operate.

Another key modification involves shutoff damper controls for ventilation systems. Backdraft dampers are used to allow air to flow in one direction, while preventing air from flowing in the opposite direction. The Springfield modification removes a requirement in the International Energy Conservation Code for computer-controlled dampers, and allows for a builder to use simpler gravity dampers in a building’s ventilation system.

Next up: Houses and duplexes

ground floor of New home construction
New home construction (Photo by Dean Curtis)

Hosmer asked about adopting the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code for residential builds. Rowe expects that the City Council will have a bill to consider as early as May 16.

Proponents of adoption say the new changes will make building more energy efficient, and perhaps make utilities cheaper for businesses and tenants of apartment buildings. Opponents worry the costs associated with these building codes will be passed along to commercial tenants and home buyers, who are already dealing with increased costs of construction due to economic climate conditions.

“We’re working on it still,” Rowe said.

“Do you anticipate asking for or suggesting the full 2018 [International Energy Conservation Code]?” Hosmer asked.

“We’ve already adopted the 2018 residential code with modifications,” Rowe said.

Rowe said the main difference was the R-value of floor insulation found in the charts for the building code compared to the energy code. R-value measures how well a layer of insulation resists the flow of heat through a barrier, in this case, how well the insulation in a floor keeps a home from losing heat.

“The residential code is used by one- and two-family dwellings only and the removal of these provisions would bring all requirements into the same book creating a smoother design and enforcement of codes,” Rowe wrote in a memo to the City Council.

Springfield now uses pieces or parts of 10 different International Building Codes published in 2018, which Rowe said reduces confusion for code enforcers and for developers who want to build in Springfield.

“Having all codes on the same edition would be in the best interest of the community by having all codes on the same review cycle,” Rowe wrote in the memo.


Springfield’s adopted codes for construction:

2018 International Residential Code (IRC) 

2018 International Building Code (IBC) 

2018 International Existing Building Code (IEBC) 

2018 International Mechanical Code 

2018 International Plumbing Code 

2018 International Fuel Gas Code 

2018 International Fire Code 

2018 Swimming Pool and Spa Code 

2018 International Private Sewer Disposal Code

2017 National Electrical Code (NEC) 

2012/2018 International Energy Conservation Code 

2009 ICCA117.1 Accessible and Useable Buildings and Facilities (ANSI) 

2017 ICC 300 American National Standard for Bleachers, Folding and Telescopic Seating, and Grandstands 

2014 ICC 500 Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters 

Land Use Inspectors: 2018 International Property Maintenance Code


Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger