Friday, November 4, 2011

Georgia's Statewide Performance Testing Requirements

A case study on Third Party Performance Testing by the Institute for Market Transformation outlines the residential performance testing requirements in Austin, Texas. (www.imt.org/codecompliance) In short, Austin Energy, a municipally owned electric utility administers a program where approved third-party testers are contracted by builders to perform duct and envelope tightness tests as well as static pressure and air flow testing. Each of those tests is required under Austin’s amendments to the 2009 IECC. Of course, having a municipally owned utility and Austin’s agreeable political environment made the implementation of such a program easier.  However, there is a lesson to be learned from a state with a less-than-favorable political climate, but was still able to implement a statewide residential performance testing requirement. 

The State of Georgia has amended the 2009 IECC to require building envelope and duct leakage testing be performed by a certified Duct and Envelope Tightness (DET) Verifier.  The 2011 Georgia Amendments to the 2009 IECC define a DET Verifier as someone who holds a HERS Certification, BPI Building Analyst Certification, is a Home Performance with Energy Star Contractor or completes the 8-hour DET Verifier Course, as approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and successfully passes the practical and written exam.  The builder is responsible for hiring someone with one of these certifications to perform the building envelope and duct leakage testing. The results of the testing would then be submitted to the local Building Official.  In Austin, the average cost to the builder for having the testing performed is about $400.  Since Georgia’s code does not require the static pressure or air flow testing, as Austin does, it is estimated that the testing cost would be closer to $300.    

Although Georgia’s Code does require that the testing be done for new residential construction and that it be done by a certified individual, it does not require that individual to be an independent third-party.  In fact, as a compromise with the homebuilding industry, if a home builder, or any employee thereof, held one of the certifications, they could perform their own testing.  This could be seen as a loophole in Georgia’s Code, but it is believed that home builder’s who are willing to expend the time, effort and money to obtain the proper certification as well as purchase the equipment necessary for the testing, will be inclined to ensure that their employees and/or sub-contractors are performing quality, code-compliant work. 

Since, Georgia’s Amendments to the 2009 IECC took effect on January 1, 2011, there have been over 400 DET Verifiers certified.  The Georgia model relies on local Building Official’s to verify that the testing was done by a certified individual and therefore lacks the same level of oversight that the administrator of the Austin program provides.  Never-the-less, Georgia’s DET Verifier program can be an effective model for local and state governments wanting to enforce the energy code, but lacking the resources for in-house inspection or administrative oversight.                

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