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Little Rock Sets Energy Standards for New Home Construction

2 min read

The Little Rock City Board of Directors took a substantial step toward improving efficiency in new homes Tuesday night, approving building codes for testing heating and air duct installation.

The ordinance will go into effect on Oct. 3, after which ducts in all new residential structures will have to be tested for leakage and certified to meet efficiency standards. The ordinance also will require that new spray-foam-insulated structures pass a blower-door test to ensure proper ventilation to prevent safety and mold problems.

Before the vote, city officials spent a year discussing residential energy issues with groups like the Little Rock Realtors Association, the Little Rock Homebuilders Association, the Arkansas HVAC Association and various energy conservation proponents, housing developers, bankers and appraisers.

“Fayetteville has had an ordinance in place for several years that requires energy testing and certification for all new residential structures,” Little Rock Building Codes Manager Chuck Givens told Arkansas Business. “That is something that we initially discussed, but we continued to hear … that duct leakage was a big problem and spray foamed insulated structures were a concern with regard to improper ventilation which can be a safety hazard and a mold issue.”

Givens said that because current codes require only visual inspections, the new ordinance will require written verification and certification from a licensed tester or rater on ducts and foam insulation before new residences can gain a certificate of occupancy from the city.

The city will make allowances in duct testing for developers building tract housing with identical floor plans, as well as multifamily structures, based on the number of units in a development.

Projects with 200 or fewer units will require that 20 percent of the properties be tested; above 200 units, 10 percent would face testing.

“We also will require that a permanent sticker be placed on the structures’ interior electric panel and a temporary sticker (until the house is sold or occupied) be placed on the front entrance outlining the energy components,” Givens said.

The city and stakeholders were concerned that Little Rock might not have enough certified testers, so Givens said the Arkansas HVAC Association would handle certification, accepting testing and verification results for duct testing only from certified energy raters and duct testers. Blower-door insulation testing will be done exclusively by certified energy raters.

“So we think with the number of energy raters as well as getting the HVAC contractors certified for duct testing that there will be enough people to perform the tests,” Givens said.

Little opposition to the ordinance arose after the city addressed concerns brought up at several meetings on the issue. 

“We also put the effective date six months after the ordinance passage to properly get everyone notified on these new standards,” Givens said. “These new standards were recommended as a way to save the consumer costs in utilities,” and to enhance safety in spray-foam insulated structures, he added.

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