Energy and building code updates could come to Omaha


September 25th, 2013

Omaha, NE – Building codes have existed since the time of Hammurabi nearly 4,000 years ago.


If someone built a house for a man and it fell and killed him, then the builder would be slain. Moving through time we’ve become less barbaric and have figured out ways to make buildings safer with specific guidelines.

The International Code Council is made up of local energy and safety code officials. They publish new codes every three years providing a minimum safeguard for all types of buildings. Your home, office and restaurants are just a few examples of structures that codes are written for.

Omaha is on a six year cycle, meaning every six years new codes are adopted. However, with the ICC republishing new codes at a faster rate it can leave builders in a bind. Garry Ruliffson, an energy solutions specialist at the Omaha Public Power District says this discrepancy has caused problems.

“The challenge has been the city has been on a six-year cycle on energy code changes,” Ruliffson said. “And when you go from 2006 to 2012 there (are) huge jumps between those areas. So it makes it challenging for builders to kind of jump six years instead of three years. And I know the city is evaluating it.”

Jay Davis, assistant planning director and superintendent for the Permits and Inspections Division for the City of Omaha, has been working to get several ordinances written to go before the city council including the 2012 International Energy Conservation and 2012 International Residential Codes.

The IECC is a Department of Energy plan that requires a 50% increase in energy savings by 2015. The IRC is geared toward newly built one to two family dwellings, a single family home or duplex. Davis said there has been misinformation out there about these codes.

Omaha City Councilman Franklin Thompson is hopeful these ordinances will pass. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

Omaha City Councilman Franklin Thompson is hopeful these ordinances will pass. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

“The energy conservation provisions that we are talking about in the code deal with new construction,” Davis said. “Existing properties are exempt from this unless they change out a furnace or an air conditioner. But from the stand point of insulation or some of the features that have to be done on a new home, those are not required on existing properties.”

Several building officials in the Omaha area gathered to work on moving codes forward. They took proposed amendments to home-builders and met through a series of meetings over a two-month period. They helped formulate the ordinance Davis will bring before the city council in the coming weeks.

Davis said the IRC could go through without Omaha adopting the 2012 IECC. He also said everything written in the IECC about single family residential housing was consolidated into what is now chapter 11 of the IRC. But he doesn’t want to take away from the ordinance.

“Now with the advent of energy conservation, we’ve created a code that deals specifically with the energy part of helping builders to build these things into their homes and making their homes more energy efficient.”

Davis said the changes in code would bring more efficient furnaces, air conditioners, more insulation, and better windows and doors. All of these take the building envelope and use less energy from an electrical, heating and cooling standpoint.

These prospective ordinances include not only Omaha, but every community in the metro area: Valley, Fremont, Council Bluffs, Bellevue, La Vista, Papillion, Ralston and Gretna. Omaha City Councilman Franklin Thompson said he views this as a good thing because it brings homeowners more option.

“So it puts everybody on the same page,” Thompson said. “There is no difference in the general metro area. Not only that we are also up to national standards and there are some more choices now to where people have a choice rather than just being directed through one funnel.”

Ruliffson said adopting the ordinances is a direct approach from the City at getting everyone involved in the construction of the house on the same page.

“It is a systems approach instead of just looking at a dry-waller coming and doing his work, a framer doing his work (and) an insulator doing his work, they all have to coordinate and understand how they are assembling this house. These energy codes, as they progress and include more building science behind it they really get a better quality product that is energy efficient that allows them the benefit of a home that the expectations they’ve had on the front-end have actually been delivered.”

Davis said the next step will be the International Existing Building Code and International Building Code which makes code for any building with more than three units and anything commercial. The IEBC and IBC will come up for vote at the city council later this year. He said ultimately the beneficiaries of the savings in Omaha will be the consumer.

“So if all the tools are in place to make your house efficient so over the next five years you recover $1,000 or $800 or whatever the case may be in just an energy savings (then) it is worth the investment to put the equipment in there.”

Tentative date for first reading of the ordinances is October 22nd. A public hearing will be a week later and a vote will follow that. While Councilman Thompson said he believes he has enough votes for the ordinances to pass he wouldn’t make any guarantee.

Comments are closed.

©2023 KVNO News