Council committee to learn about International Energy Conservation Code

  • Actors in “The Cool Future of Home Design,” a humorous video about home design and energy efficiency, is scheduled to be shown Tuesday at a County Council committee meeting. (Image from video/vimeo.com)

  • Sue Lee Loy

HILO — A humorous homespun video about a serious topic is slated to be aired Tuesday at a County Council committee meeting as the legislative body takes its first stab toward making local modifications to the International Energy Conservation Code.

Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, chairwoman of the Committee on Public Works and Mass Transit, scheduled the 14-minute video as a way to introduce the subject. It’s produced by Hawaii Energy, which works with businesses and consumers to improve energy efficiency in the state. Collaborating on the project were the Blue Planet Foundation, Da Braddahs and Gentry Homes Hawaii.

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The video, at https://vimeo.com/257651635, features Da Braddahs, a comedy duo portraying a couple of local guys, as they learn about the regulations brought on by the new energy code.

Hawaii County missed the deadline to make its own modifications to the strict new statewide code, which went into effect earlier this month. Counties had two years before that to implement their own changes to the code. Maui had modified its code in March, and Kauai modified its in November, leaving Hawaii County and Oahu using the state code.

The state says the updated code will reduce energy use in buildings by almost one-third, saving more than $1 billion in energy costs statewide over the next 20 years. Critics say the code was made for the harsher climates of the mainland, where homes usually have heat and air conditioning and must be sealed from the elements.

The code is required for new construction and major renovations.

The new code requires double-paned or insulated windows, fully insulated walls, floors and roofs and a completely sealed house. There’s a “Tropical Zone” option for houses at the 2,400-foot elevation or below, provided half or less of the residence is air-conditioned. A third, “performance compliance,” option uses software to allow designers to plug in features that add to or subtract from energy consumption to arrive at the required level.

But many architects and building contractors worry the new regulations will add thousands to the cost of building a house, making home ownership unaffordable for some Big Island residents.

Maui and Kauai were able to lessen the impact by taking their own particular climate zones into consideration.

Both counties, for example, removed the requirement for R-13 insulation in floors. Kauai has also removed the insulation requirements for interior and exterior mass walls of certain thickness, provided there’s an overhang or reflectance, such as reflective paint.

Lee Loy said she scheduled the video, to be followed by a council discussion, as “an introduction to other council members and the public to some of the technical terminologies as we begin to consider revisions to the IECC and other building code amendments.”

She said she didn’t specifically ask that Department of Public Works officials attend the session, but they’re going to be there anyway for other agenda items.

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Lee Loy is working on a bill, which also involves a major rework of county building, electrical and plumbing codes, that is expected to go the council in October or November. She’s working on the bill with Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder, an electrician.

The committee meeting starts at 1 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers in Hilo, with testimony by videoconferencing also available at the West Hawaii Civic Center, the Waimea and Pahoa council offices, the old Kohala courthouse and the Naalehu state office building.

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