Construction Code Changes Affecting New Construction And Building Renovations For Commercial And Residential Projects

Shari Shapiro – March 13, 2013

Most jurisdictions in the United States have a construction code setting the minimum standards for new construction and significant renovations of commercial and residential buildings. The construction codes are generally based on the model codes developed by the International Code Council (ICC), a nonprofit standard setting organization, that are updated every three years. 2012 is a code update year, and the recent changes have created controversy in some jurisdictions regarding adoption of the 2012 codes. Understanding the 2012 code changes that have a material impact on the design and performance of buildings is critical if you are planning new construction or building renovations in the near future.


Energy Efficiency

Arguably the most far-reaching changes in the 2012 codes are changes to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), designed to improve building energy efficiency. The 2012 codes provide new provisions to improve building energy efficiency by 15 percent above the 2009 codes, and 30 percent over the 2006 codes. A 30 percent enhancement in energy efficiency can change the economic calculus of a new building project. On the other hand, additional investment in energy efficiency may change the cost of construction. Changes to the construction codes can also change the competitive landscape – an older building may be less valuable than its newer counterpart not only because of the granite lobby, but also because of the long term energy savings.

For residential and commercial buildings, the 2012 IECC includes a comprehensive set of measures designed to improve the thermal envelope and to increase the efficiency of the HVAC and electrical systems. For commercial buildings, the IECC also includes energy performance standards for windows, doors and skylights.

Advocates of energy efficiency, including the U.S. Department of Energy, stress the energy and financial savings of the 2012 code changes. Critics of the increased energy efficiency requirements claim it will cost too much to comply with 2012 IECC, and that the return on investment in additional energy savings is small. As described in more detail below, the controversy over the IECC changes has slowed the adoption of the 2012 codes as a whole in some jurisdictions.

Protection from Wind, Seismic and Fire Catastrophes

Construction and real estate professionals need to be aware of the provisions in the 2012 codes that are designed to reduce the catastrophic effects of natural disasters. Construction codes provide the minimum standards for construction. If the codes in a particular jurisdiction are not up-to- date, buildings constructed to older codes may not provide the same protection from natural disaster damage.

The 2012 International Residential Code (IRC) (applicable to one- and two-family dwellings) and the International Building Code (IBC) (applicable to all other construction) include changes to design requirements to prevent damage from high winds. There are changes in load, roofing, bracing and other standards to take into account potential wind damage. Similarly, the 2012 codes incorporate revised requirements for construction in earthquake-prone areas.

In the 2012 codes, there are a number of changes to enhance first responder access to high rise fires. For example, two fire service elevators are now required to serve every floor of a building with an occupied floor more than 120 feet above the lowest level of fire department access. Other fire safety related changes require that activation of a building fire alarm system also initiates a recall of all fire service elevators.

Incorporation of Green Technologies

Finally, the 2012 codes more directly address certain green technologies. Greywater recycling, the practice of allowing non-sewage water from domestic activities, such as laundry and dishwashing, to be reused on site, is now permitted in the 2012 codes. Photovoltaic solar panels (i.e., the method of converting solar radiation into direct current electricity) are addressed. Prior to the 2012 codes, there were no requirements for photovoltaic solar panels. The 2012 codes provide criteria for the placement of solar panels on the roofs of buildings and include safety features for the safety of first responders.


The controversy primarily stems from the enhancements to the IECC. Several state home builders’ associations and the National Association of Homebuilders have been vocal critics of the 2012 codes. They argue that the added cost of the residential energy efficiency provisions will put homes out of reach of homebuyers. For example, in Illinois, the state’s home builders association sought to delay adoption of the 2012 codes legislatively, alleging compliance with the new code will increase building costs by $5,000 for a 2,000 square foot home.

Advocates of enhanced energy efficiency dismiss these claims, noting that the additional cost of the energy efficiency upgrades will be recovered many times over from decreased energy costs.

In certain jurisdictions, the controversy over the IECC has slowed adoption of all of the 2012 codes. Pennsylvania rejected the 2012 codes entirely, and Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois have all seen regulatory and legislative activity related to the 2012 code adoptions.

In summary, the 2012 codes incorporate changes that can significantly alter the design and performance of buildings. Therefore, it is important to check the status of adoption of the 2012 codes in the applicable jurisdiction early in the development or construction process.

via Construction Code Changes Affecting New Construction And Building Renovations For Commercial And Residential Projects – Real Estate and Construction – United States.

EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule Pushed to 2015

Advise & Consult, Inc. – October 2, 2012

Commercial buildings now have until 2015 to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule.

This rule has been surrounded by controversy, basically since its inception. Originally, it was to include all contractors doing any renovation on pre-1978 residential and commercial buildings with the hopes of cleaning up lead based paint, dust and exposure during that renovation process. While the intentions were to keep people safe as the increasing knowledge of damage caused by lead paint dust – especially to children.

The controversy started when it created a competitive dis-advantage for those trying to comply with the new regulations and the added cost of the expensive procedures when compared to those contractors that couldn’t, wouldn’t or for some other reason didn’t comply with the new regulations.

The controversy continues with a voluntary legal settlement with environmental groups including the Sierra Club. In this settlement the EPA agrees to propose a significant and costly expansion of the existing residential lead paint rule. It also agrees to eliminate the “opt-out provision” allowing homeowners without children who live in homes built prior to 1978 to choose exempt remodelers from following these specific practices and the required recordkeeping.

The agreement also would require all remodelers of pre-1978 housing projects to perform expensive third-party lead dust clearance testing before completing the renovation. The National Association of Home Builders has successfully convinced the EPA to withdraw this after petitioning the White House.

The final aspect of the agreement is to accelerate the development of the commercial buildings rule and to have that completed by September of 2012. The NAHB also had a say on this as they charged that the agency has failed to perform the prerequisite studies on the potential of harming adults with the dust during the renovation process. Under federal law, the EPA is required to perform these studies and has yet to complete this study.

Surely this is not the end of the story and the controversy and enforcement of this will continue to kick up the dust – pun intended.

EPA Official Promises More Enforcement of Lead Rule

By Tom Scarlett      February 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has “begun stepping up its inspections and enforcement” of its Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule for lead paint, an EPA official said during a webinar last month.

Don Lott, associate director of the EPA’s Waste and Chemical Enforcement Division, noted that his agency is weighting violations more heavily when human health is put directly at risk.

Additionally, Alabama’s Department of Public Health has put contractors around the state on notice: If they’re working in homes built before 1978, they need to be trained in dealing with lead-based paint. The state took control of enforcing the rule in late 2010, and now a one-year grace period given to contractors with existing EPA licenses is over.

Lead paint was banned in 1978, and the RRP rule is an attempt to regulate renovations of older homes that still have it. The regulation has been controversial and has drawn several rebukes from Congress.

During a webinar that was sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Lott said his agency will be taking more enforcement actions in 2012 for the rule than it did in 2011.

Last year, the EPA took three enforcement actions in the 38 states where it oversees RRP enforcement. Twelve states enforce the rule on their own, including Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The agency’s highest priority is ensuring companies are using the proper lead-safe work practices, Lott said, as well as ensuring companies are following proper training and recordkeeping guidelines.

Lott said that the EPA receives about 400 tips and complaints per month reporting uncertified firms and unsafe lead work practices. Those tips have led to about 1,000 compliance inspections of job sites to date, and, as a result, it was found that 60 percent of contractors on those job sites were uncertified. Still, the agency took just three enforcement actions.

In a related story, two companies face significant penalties for violating federal lead paint disclosure laws at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine and the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.

A complaint filed by the EPA asserts that Northeast Housing, LLC, and Balfour Beatty Military Housing Management, LLC failed on multiple occasions over several years to notify prospective tenants, including families with young children, about potential lead paint hazards in housing managed by the companies on the two Navy bases in New England. Notifying prospective tenants and purchasers of housing units helps parents protect young children from exposure to lead-based paint hazards.

The companies face a possible fine of $153,070 for alleged violations of the Lead Based Paint Disclosure Rule. EPA’s complaint asserts that the two companies failed to comply with the Disclosure Rule when they entered into 13 contracts to lease target housing for military personnel during the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the U.S. Naval Submarine Base.

The housing at both bases is owned by Northeast, a joint venture limited liability company between the Department of the Navy and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Balfour Beatty Communities, LLC (BBC), of which the BBC affiliate is the managing member. There are approximately 25 target housing units located at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where housing was built in the 1800s and early 1900s. There are approximately 735 target housing units at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, which was built in the early 1960s.

“Exposure to lead paint is a serious public health concern here in New England because of how much older housing we have. Further, military families make significant sacrifices to protect our nation, and the health of those families, as well as all families, should not be jeopardized by not being notified of potential lead hazards in the housing where they reside,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Property managers and owners play an important part in helping to prevent lead poisoning by following lead paint disclosure requirements and making sure families are aware of potential lead hazards in homes.”


The EPA’s Lead-Paint Lead Balloon

November 13, 2011

When the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new regulation in April 2010 requiring housing contractors to take extra precautions around hazardous lead paint, businesswoman Kathy Faia followed it to the letter of the law.

One of her construction workers in Kenner, La., attended classes to become government-certified in the new procedures. She purchased expensive Star-Trek-like coveralls with goggles, rubber gloves, hoods and rubber boots for her workers. And she instructed her remodeling crews to literally enshroud houses they were working in a plastic bubble wrap to prevent lead paint flakes, which potentially can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, from escaping into the atmosphere.

A little more than than a year, Faia says her small, family-owned construction business is financially ruined. The new rule’s detailed compliance requirements, related paperwork, and purchases of EPA required equipment added thousands of dollars to the cost of doing business and made it much harder for her to compete for remodeling contracts. Business has dropped off by more than two thirds, and she recently had to lay off one of her workers. “I’m just barely hanging on,” she says. ““They [the EPA] are over-regulating and sucking all of the fun out of the remodeling business.”

Faia’s story is not unique, and it comes as conservative lawmakers wage a campaign against EPA’s rulemaking that they contend is destroying jobs and harming the economic recovery. EPA officials say the new Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule is important in protecting the health of construction workers and young children who are especially susceptible to the effects of lead paint in their homes.

Since the GOP took control of the House in January, there have been at least 159 votes on measures opposing environmental protections — including 83 targeting the EPA, according to a list compiled by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Last July the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut off enforcement funding of the RRP rule until the EPA recognizes a reliable lead-paint test kit. “This is exactly the sort of regulatory bungling that’s costing us jobs and slowing economic recovery,” says Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont. “If the EPA is going to create a bunch of hoops for small businesses to jump through, the very least they can do is give them the tools they need to comply with the rules. While I support the underlying goal of reducing harmful lead exposure, we need to strike a commonsense balance that doesn’t put small businesses into no-win situations.”

The EPA’s promulgation of the RRP rule caused uproar in the home remodeling industry last year when experts and businesses claimed it would destroy jobs and small businesses. Interviews in recent days suggest that the regulation has hurt companies that closely adhere to the rule, but there is little evidence that the rule has forced large numbers of layoffs.

The regulation requires any renovations on homes built before 1978 to be completed by certified contractors and follow a stringent set of lead-safe work practices. According to the EPA, lead paint was used in 38 million homes before it was banned in 1978.

Interviews with contractors and industry advocates indicate that the relatively small number of contractors actually following the new rule are feeling an economic pinch while most other contractors are simply ignoring the regulation and hoping they won’t get caught and heavily fined. The fines could be as high as $37,500 per violation per day, but the chances of a contractor being caught and fined are negligible, because EPA enforcement is so lax.

“The rule has . . .   expanded the underground economy in the construction industry,” said Shawn McCadden, an industry consultant and former remodeler in Massachusetts. The so-called “underground economy” includes contractors who have made a conscious decision not to get EPA certified.

“The ones who used to get the jobs aren’t getting the jobs,” McCadden notes. “It’s really making it unfair to those who are certified and it’s tempting contractors to jump into the fray of operating illegally just to survive.”

Contractors say they are reluctant to try to pass on added fees to homeowners when remodeling jobs are already scarce. The EPA estimates that the costs to contractors to follow the work practices range from $8 to $167 per job, with the “exception of those exterior jobs.” Industry experts insist the EPA is low-balling the added cost and say that the new regulation is adding 7 to 15 percent to the cost of a basic home improvement or renovation. Remodelers are afraid that once their company is registered with the EPA they will be targeted first for regulation compliance.

The president of a large remodeling firm, who declined to be identified for this story because of his company’s involvement in a lawsuit, says his company spent $75,000 on training, labor, and materials and associated fees over the last year trying to comply with the rule. It was recently audited by the EPA for paperwork violations.

“We’re a significant leader in the industry,” he tells The Fiscal Times. “We are responsible workers and they audited us. Nearly 85 percent of our industry is untrained, and the EPA turned their resources on the good guys. The law is prohibiting me from serving my clients and it is driving my clients to uncertified contractors.”

EPA officials have declined to discuss the controversy over the new rule but say that it is relatively easy for a company to achieve EPA certification.  Firms need to send in a two-page application to the EPA and pay a $300 fee for a one-day class with a 20-question exam. As of October, the EPA had trained an estimated 743,000 people in the construction and remodeling industries to use lead-safe work practices. They have certified 92,000 companies. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates there were more than 650,000 contracting businesses in the U.S. as of 2007, the last year for which data was available. Industry experts say the real number is probably closer to over 1 million businesses including independent contractors.

Last year, only 206 special EPA agents oversaw all lead-paint related issues throughout the country. The EPA relies on tips and complaints from homeowners and construction workers. A spokesperson for the EPA said the agency has filed just three complaints for alleged violation since the law was implemented, suggesting that there is virtually no effective enforcement taking place.

To be sure, states can elect to take over enforcement and administration of the rule. So far only 12 states that have chosen to do so. They include: Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. But experts say it doesn’t necessarily mean better rule enforcement.

“We’re not happy about it, but we’re dealing with the rule,” says David Merrick, chairman of government reform for the National Association for the Remodeling Industry, which represents 7,000 remodeling companies.

EPA revises lead paint rules for building renovations – Lexology

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not require dust wipe tests under the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) in connection with work that disturbs lead-based paint in pre-1978 housing and facilities serving children under six. The revised RRP Rule was effective on October 4, 2011. EPA has announced it will increase enforcement of the lead paint rules and has begun assessing penalties under the RRP Rule.

In May 2010, EPA proposed several revisions to the RRP Rule, including requiring dust wipe testing after certain types of renovations to demonstrate that remaining dust lead levels are below clearance levels.  After receiving over 300 comments, EPA decided not to impose these requirements, concluding that the work practices already established in the RRP Rule are “reliable, effective, and safe.” EPA said its decision is consistent with the original intent of the RRP Rule: renovators should address the lead-based paint hazards created during renovation but are not required to go beyond the scope of the renovation activity. For instance, the RRP Rule does not require renovators to clean dust in areas beyond those in and around the work area. Nor does it require renovators to replace carpets or refinish or seal floors in the area of the renovation.

EPA did, however, promulgate other proposed revisions. Renovators will now be allowed to collect paint chip samples from components to be affected by a renovation for testing by a certified laboratory, instead of using test kits to determine whether lead-based paint is present.

EPA also made minor revisions in the training provider accreditation and application process, clarified certain training and recordkeeping requirements and established a minimum penalty authority for state and tribal programs.

Finally, EPA clarified the requirements for vertical containment for certain exterior renovations, prohibited or restricted work practices, the use of high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) vacuums and on-the-job training provided by renovators.

EPA is increasing its enforcement of the lead paint rules, with a focus on education, recordkeeping and reporting requirements, and work practice standards. The National Program Manager Guidance, issued by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance in April 2011, directs the regions to “promote compliance with all of the [lead-based paint rules] with a significant focus on the [RRP Rule].”

In particular, the Guidance instructs that 60% of inspection/enforcement actions under EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) programs should focus on lead-based paint, with the majority of those directed to the RRP Rule.

EPA has already brought one enforcement action for violation of the RRP Rule. It filed a complaint in May 2011 seeking penalties against a Rockland, Maine renovator for six violations of the RRP Rule, including failing to contain dust and debris generated during a repainting project and for failing to ensure that employees were properly trained or supervised.  EPA learned of the violations through an anonymous tip linking to a YouTube video taken in October 2010. EPA is seeking civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day per violation, for a minimum of $225,000.

via EPA revises lead paint rules for building renovations – Lexology.