JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – The International Code Council, responsible for energy efficiency standards for buildings in the U.S., recently issued an update of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Among other changes, the 2012 code contains more stringent requirements for insulation in new buildings throughout most of the United States in order to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.
Energy conservation is a matter of growing importance in the U.S., where buildings account for nearly 40 percent of total energy consumption and 70 percent of electricity use. Although China's energy consumption is highest in the world, the U.S. ranks number one in per capita use. Due to its significance, the building industry committed itself to make a valuable contribution to reduce per capita energy use in the U.S. This commitment is reflected in the goals set by the U.S. building industry, along with the American Institute of Architects (AIA), to significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
Heimo Scheuch, CEO of the largest brick company in the world, Wienerberger AG – headquartered in Austria – was in the U.S. recently to discuss the impact of 2012 energy code requirements on the construction industry and simple solutions for code compliance.
Code compliance can be a significant hurdle for architects, builders and contractors, who need easy-to-install, efficient and cost-effective building solutions. The new minimum standard for insulation will be R20, where R-value is the measure of heat flow resistance. As a result, the traditional 2x4-inch framed wall with batt insulation does not meet the 2012 code.
Code compliance can now be achieved in two ways: using 2x6-inch studs with batt insulation OR by adding continuous sheet insulation to 2x4-inch stud construction. Continuous sheet insulation attached to studs creates a "wall" next to exterior brick and minimizes heat loss by providing a weather-resistant barrier. Brick is one of the world's oldest green building materials: The unique combination of durability and thermal mass properties of brick – as compared to other exterior building materials – significantly decreases the load on heating and cooling systems.
Brick is a "breathing" material and thereby guarantees not only a healthy indoor climate but also balances temperatures. In contrast to many other building materials, brick absorbs temperatures, which keeps a home or office cool during the warmer months and warm during the cooler months. This is why building with brick supports lower energy consumption.
Scheuch stresses the economic rationale of a brick house.
"You can not only save energy costs with a brick house, but maintenance costs are very low; and due to its longevity, resale prices are significantly higher," Scheuch says. "A brick house keeps its value and quality over a long lifetime."
Wienerberger's North American subsidiary, General Shale, based in Johnson City, Tenn., offers superior building solutions with bricks, which are already in full compliance with the code. Scheuch points to General Shale's offerings of traditional brick, thin veneers and Endurance RS4 Structural Brick, which are – when combined with continuous insulation – ideal solutions for meeting the new energy code requirements, with minimal labor and cost adjustments. Endurance RS4 Brick, the company's most recent product innovation, is designed for structural longevity. The RS4 stands for "Real Strong, Real Safe, Real Sustainable, Real Smart."
Oversized for safer, stronger, more sustainable and energy-efficient construction, this product eliminates the need for load-bearing wood or steel framing and has excellent thermal mass properties. In addition, the product is suitable for any type of foundation, withstands higher loads and meets seismic requirements. Brick makes a building very solid and more resistant against hurricanes, fires and earthquakes. This is also reflected by insurance rates, which may be lower for a brick house than for any other material.
"Since our company was founded more than 80 years ago, the nature of our business has been sustainable building," says General Shale President and CEO Dick Green. "Brick is the ultimate construction material for environmental concerns and energy savings, and we are proud to offer a variety of products and solutions to make code compliance easier."
Recognizing the importance of reversing America's trend with regards to energy, the U.S. government and organizations such as AIA; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); International Code Council (ICC); and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) work to provide design and construction standards to maximize energy efficiency.