City of Houston Energy Code

The City of Houston Energy code changed in December of 2016.  We are starting to see an increase in our clients asking for documents to prove compliance.  This article should explain what the City of Houston requirements are

Energy Code Compliance in the City of Houston

The City of Houston adopted a new energy code last year.  There is a lot of confusion about what is required by the City.  Rigid has spoken with Luke Fry with the COH, Bill Wescott with Silvercote Insulation and a certified architect that does Comcheck in the COH to compile this information.

Section One- The simplest path forward…

  1. All commercial jobs that are permitted through the COH are required to comply with the energy code IECC 2015 or ASHRAE 90.1-2013.
  2. Most commercial jobs that are permitted through the COH will comply using COMCHECK.
  3. Comcheck is a software program that is used to show energy code compliance.  It considers the r-values of the insulation, heat gain, air leakage, doors & window specs and the heating system.  It has to be completed, sealed and signed by a licensed Texas engineer or a licensed Texas architect.  The compliance certificate shows PASS or FAIL.
  4. The fee is around $500 to complete a Comcheck and provide a certificate.
  5. Rigid does not perform this service.
  6. Residential jobs will have a similar path called Rescheck .  There will also be simpler solutions with most residential projects.

Section Two-  The Expanded Explanation

The COH Notice:

The 2015 City of Houston Commercial Energy Conservation Code Amendments were adopted by City Council on November 9, 2016 and will become effective December 9, 2016.

Plans will be reviewed in compliance with the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code – Commercial Provisions & ASHRAE 90.1-2013 amended codes starting December 9, 2016. All permit applications submitted on or after the effective date will be required to comply with the new energy codes.

The approved Houston amendments to the 2015 IECC-Commercial and ASHRAE 90.1-2013 are available on the Code Development Page and the Forms & Publications Page.

For questions, please contact Luke Fry at [email protected] or Michael Blasko at [email protected].

The Intent of the Code

The energy code is used to regulate the design of buildings for the effective use of energy.  The code is intended to provide flexibility in design and to allow innovation in the industry.

Two different ways to Comply

There are two ways to comply with the code.  The performance path and the prescriptive path.

  • Prescriptive path:  This path is like a prescription from the doctor.  They tell you exactly what to do.  For the COH, the prescriptive path for residential is R-38 in the roof and R-13 in the walls.  That makes it pretty simple for sticks and bricks builders.  They use fiberglass batts between the studs rated to the required R-value and they are done.

The prescriptive method has been designed and tested in real life so you can’t modify it.

For metal buildings the prescriptive path for the COH is R-19 + R-11 + liner system in the roof with a standing seam panel and one-inch thermal blocks.  The walls need R-13 plus an R-6.5 Continuous Insulation (4-ft x 8-ft insulating foam board).

The design of foam board in our PEB system is problematic to say the least.  Also, most projects don’t have a standing seam roof.  What to do?  Comcheck.

  • Performance Path:  This is the path that allows you to design anything.  This is also the Comcheck path.  The Architect or Engineer designs the system, provides test data, inputs the values into Comcheck and gets a certificate.

If you need the performance values for our windows, doors and skylights please ask your District Manager or call us at 888-437-4443.  The builder will use the packaging of the insulation to prove insulation R-value to the inspector.

The COH also requires a cool roof (white) for air-conditioned buildings with a pitch less that 2/12.  Technically, a cool roof is one that has a Solar Reflectance value of minimum .70.  Currently, our S-2000 white and our S-3000 white paints comply.  If the pitch is more than 2/12, it can be any color in the COH.

Here are the guidelines:

 The Standard Design

The Pass or Fail of the Comcheck is based on a standard reference design.  The standard design is a simple building designed to IECC 2006 energy code and tested in real-life to have certain properties for heat gain, air-leakage, mechanical systems and overall energy consumption.  The Comcheck compares your energy design to the standard design.

The Scale for comparison to the standard design is 0-100 and is called an ERI rating.  The one-hundred is the standard design.  Zero is a home that essentially uses no energy (a net-zero design uses no more energy than the amount of renewable energy is creates- net energy use is zero).  Currently, the COH requires a ERI rating of 65 or lower.  It will become 63 in 2019 and 59 in 2022.  As the rating requirement gets closer to zero, the design requirements get more expensive.

IECC 2015 vs. ASHRAE 2013

  • The codes Rigid designs to are two separate entities.
  • The COH will accept either one.
  • They both have prescriptive and performance paths.
  • You can’t mix them up.  You can’t use one code for the walls and the other for the roof.

Applying this to other Cities and States

See the ASHRAE Commercial Code Map below.  This map shows what states require compliance to the energy code.  If your state does not require an energy code design and your city does not require an energy code design, you can do anything you want for your insulation.  The different blue colors on this map represent the required code per state.  The gray states have no requirements.  Some gray states may have requirements for designs completed by licensed architects.

Note that Texas has three different climate zones.  South Texas is in Climate Zone 2.  West Texas is in Climate zone 3.  The Panhandle is in Climate zone 4.

Other Software

There are many software-designs that do the same thing as Comcheck.  Most can be used.  Check with your city to make sure you are using the correct software.

If you have any questions please reach out to your District Manager or call the office at 888-467-4443

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