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NO. 20. AN ACT RELATING TO ENERGY STANDARDS AND RESIDENTIAL HOUSING.

(H.43)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. 21 V.S.A. chapter 3, subchapter 9 is added to read:

Subchapter 9. Residential Building Energy Standards

266. RESIDENTIAL BUILDING ENERGY STANDARDS

(a) Definitions. For purposes of this subchapter, the following definitions apply:

(1) "Builder" means the general contractor or other person in charge of construction, who has the power to direct others with respect to the details to be observed in construction.

(2) "Residential buildings" means one family dwellings, two family dwellings, and multi-family housing three stories or less in height. "Residential buildings" shall not include hunting camps.

(3) "Residential construction" means new construction of residential buildings, and the construction of residential additions that create 500 square feet of new floor space, or more. Before July 1, 1998, this definition shall only apply to residential construction that is subject to the jurisdiction of 10 V.S.A. chapter 151. Effective July 1, 1998, this definition shall apply to residential construction, regardless of whether or not it is subject to the jurisdiction of 10 V.S.A. chapter 151.

(b) Adoption of Residential Building Energy Standards (RBES). Residential construction commencing on or after July 1, 1997 shall be in compliance with the standards contained in the 1995 edition of the "Model Energy Code" (MEC) prepared by the Council of American Building Officials, as those standards have been amended by the general assembly in the act that initially adopts the Model Energy Code.

(c) Revision and interpretation of energy standards. On or about January 1, 1999, and at least every three years thereafter, the commissioner of labor and industry shall amend and update the RBES, by means of administrative rules adopted in accordance with 3 V.S.A. chapter 25. The department of public service shall provide technical assistance and expert advice to the commissioner in the interpretation of the RBES and in theformulation of specific proposals for amending the RBES. At least a year prior to final adoption of each required revision of the RBES, the department of public service shall convene an advisory committee to include one or more mortgage lenders, builders, building designers, utility representatives, and other persons with experience and expertise, such as consumer advocates and energy conservation experts. The advisory committee may provide the commissioner with additional recommendations for revision of the RBES.

(1) Any amendments to the RBES shall be:

(A) Consistent with duly adopted state energy policy, as specified in 30 V.S.A. 202a, and consistent with duly adopted state housing policy.

(B) Evaluated relative to their technical applicability and reliability.

(C) Cost-effective and affordable from the consumer’s perspective.

(2) Each time the RBES are amended by the commissioner, the amended RBES shall become effective upon a date specified in the adopted rule, a date that shall not be less than three months after the date of adoption. Persons commencing residential construction before the effective date of the amended RBES shall have the option of complying with the applicable provisions of the earlier or the amended RBES. After the effective date of the original or the amended RBES, any person commencing residential construction in an area subject to the RBES shall comply with the most recent version of the RBES.

(3) In the first cycle of revision of the RBES, the commissioner shall establish standards for ventilation and shall consider revisions including:

(A) A requirement for sealed combustion, induced or forced draft combustion equipment when exhaust-only ventilation systems are installed.

(B) A requirement for adequate replacement air ducted directly to the combustion area of wood and pellet stoves and fireplaces.

(4)(A) As the Model Energy Code is primarily a performance-based code, the department of public service shall develop and disseminate criteria that builders may use in lieu of any computer software, calculations and trade-off worksheets, or systems analysis to comply with the code. An example package which complies with the code shall beincluded in the rules and updated as appropriate.

(B) To provide for flexibility, additional packages which are equivalent to the example package under chapter 9 of the Model Energy Code and which satisfy the performance approach shall be developed by July 1, 1997 and disseminated by the department of public service. Each time the RBES are amended by the commissioner, the department of public service shall develop modified compliance packages which will become available to the public by the date that the amendment becomes effective.

(5) A home energy rating, from a Vermont-accredited home energy rating organization, that is determined to indicate energy performance equivalent to the RBES, shall be an acceptable means of demonstrating compliance.

(6) The advisory committee convened under this subsection, in preparing for the RBES update required on or about January 1, 1999, shall advise the department of public service and the commissioner of labor and industry with respect to the coordination of the RBES amendments with existing and proposed demand side management programs offered by utilities.

(d) Role of RBES in Act 250. Substantial and reliable evidence of compliance with RBES established and updated as required under this section shall serve as a presumption of compliance with 10 V.S.A. 6086(a)(9)(F), except no presumption shall be created insofar as compliance with subdivision (a)(9)(F) involves the role of electric resistance space heating. In attempting to rebut a presumption of compliance created under this subsection, a challenge may only focus on the question of whether or not there will be compliance with the RBES established and updated as required under this subsection. A presumption under this subsection may not be overcome by evidence that the RBES adopted and updated as required under this section fail to comply with 10 V.S.A. 6086(a)(9)(F).

(e) A certification may be issued by a builder, a licensed professional engineer, a licensed architect or an accredited home energy rating organization. If certification is not issued by a licensed professional engineer, a licensed architect or an accredited home energy rating organization, it shall be issued by the builder. Any certification shall certifythat residential construction meets the RBES. The department of public service will develop and make available to the public a certificate that lists key features of the RBES. Any person certifying shall use this certificate or one substantially like it to certify compliance with RBES. Certification shall be issued by completing and signing a certificate and permanently affixing it to the outside of the heating or cooling equipment, to the electrical service panel located inside the building, or in a visible location in the vicinity of one of these three areas. The certificate shall certify that the residential building has been constructed in compliance with the requirements of the RBES. The person certifying under this subsection shall provide a copy of each certificate to the department of public service and shall assure that a certificate is recorded and indexed in the town land records. A builder may contract with a licensed professional engineer, a licensed architect or an accredited home energy rating organization to issue certification and to indemnify the builder from any liability to the owner of the residential construction caused by noncompliance with the RBES.

(f) Action for damages.

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, a person aggrieved by noncompliance with this section may bring a civil action against a person who has the obligation of certifying compliance under subsection (e) of this section. This action may seek injunctive relief, damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees. As used in this subdivision, "damages" means:

(A) costs incidental to increased energy consumption; and

(B) labor, materials, and other expenses associated with bringing the structure into compliance with RBES in effect on the date construction was commenced.

(2) A person’s failure to affix the certification as required by this section shall not be an affirmative defense in such an action against the person.

(3) The rights and remedies created by this section shall not be construed to limit any rights and remedies otherwise provided by law.

(g) Applicability and exemptions. The construction of a residential addition to a building shall not create a requirement that the entire building comply with this subchapter.The following residential construction shall not be subject to the requirements of this subchapter:

(1) Buildings or additions whose peak energy use design rate for all purposes is less than 3.4 BTU’s per hour, per square foot, or less than one watt per square foot of floor area.

(2) Homes subject to Title VI of the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5401-5426).

(3) Buildings or additions that are neither heated nor cooled.

(4) Residential construction by an owner, if all of the following apply:

(A) The owner of the residential construction is the builder, as defined under this section.

(B) The residential construction is used as a dwelling by the owner.

(C) The owner in fact directs the details of construction with regard to the installation of materials not in compliance with RBES.

(D) The owner discloses in writing to a prospective buyer, before entering into a binding purchase and sales agreement, with respect to the nature and extent of any noncompliance with RBES. Any statement or certificate given to a prospective buyer shall itemize how the home does not comply with RBES, and shall itemize which measures do not meet the RBES standards in effect at the time construction commenced. Any certificate given under this subsection shall be recorded in the land records where the property is located, and sent to the department of public service, within 30 days following sale of the property by the owner.

(h) Title validity not affected. A defect in marketable title shall not be created by a failure to issue certification or a certificate, as required under subsection (e) or subdivision (g)(4) of this section, or by a failure under that subsection to: affix a certificate; to provide a copy of a certificate to the department of public service; or to record and index a certificate in the town records.

267. HOME ENERGY RATING ORGANIZATION ACCREDITATION

(a) The department of public service shall carry out an accreditation process for homeenergy rating organizations, in consultation with representatives of interested parties including builders, building designers, mortgage lenders, real estate licensees, home appraisers, utilities, nonutility fuel suppliers, the Vermont housing finance agency, and contractors who provide home energy rating services. As part of the accreditation process, the department of public service shall consider any national home energy rating system guidelines and shall determine whether each provider of home energy ratings in the state of Vermont complies with the accreditation criteria adopted pursuant to this section.

(b) Once the department of public service carries out an accreditation process pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, no organization may provide home energy rating services in the state unless the organization has been accredited by the department.

(c) The department shall consult with the organizations described in subsection (a) of this section to facilitate a public information program to inform homeowners, renters, sellers and others regarding the accreditation process and of the statewide home energy rating organizations accredited by the department.

Sec. 2. AMENDMENTS TO THE MODEL ENERGY CODE ADOPTED BY THIS

ACT

The 1995 version of the Model Energy Code is amended as follows:

(1) in Section 303.1, by adding 303.1.1, to read "303.1.1 Exhaust dampers are required for kitchen, bath, and dryer fans."

(2) by adding two new sections to read:

SECTION 304

FIREPLACES

304.1. Fireplaces. If installed, fireplaces must include at least one of the following: tight-fitting doors; a tight-fitting chimney damper; or a chimney cap damper.

SECTION 305

DOMESTIC HOT WATER

305.1. Domestic Hot Water. Domestic hot water tanks must incorporate a minimum total R-14 insulation, except where a warranty is voided by installing tank wrap. Stand-alone domestic water heaters must include at least one of the following: internal heat traps builtinto the water heater; site-built external heat traps; or pipe insulation for the first accessible six feet on noncirculating hot and cold water pipes, in accordance with the requirements in Table 504.7 for circulating hot water pipes.

(3) by adding a new chapter to read:

CHAPTER 9

IMPLEMENTATION OF CODE IN VERMONT

SECTION 901

EXAMPLE PACKAGES

901. Example package. The following is one of the packages referred to in 21 V.S.A. 266(c)(4):

(1) Minimum R-38 insulation for exterior flat ceilings.

(2) Minimum R-30 insulation for exterior sloped ceilings.

(3) Minimum R-19 insulation for exterior walls.

(4) Minimum R-10 insulation for exterior foundation walls.

(5) Minimum R-30 insulation for floors overlaying unheated areas other than the ground.

(6) Minimum R-5 insulation for exterior doors.

(7) Minimum 82 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) for space heating systems.

(8) For single family homes, maximum 12 percent net glazing area as a percentage of gross exterior wall area. For multi-family housing, maximum 15 percent net glazing area as a percentage of gross exterior wall area.

(9) Maximum U-value of 0.4 for glazing, according to a National Fenestration Rating Council, Inc. (NFRC) rating and certification, or nonmetal window frame with double-pane with low-emissivity coating (low-E).

(10) At least double glazing, or single glaze with a storm sash, in basement foundation windows.

(11) Up to three percent of net glazing area may be exempt from the glazing requirement, and one door may be exempt from the door requirement. Glazing in doorsmust be counted as glazing area in window area calculations.

901.1. Example package for log homes. A "log home" under this section is residential construction that uses log walls for all exterior walls. A "log wall" is a wall made of lengths of whole logs, one on top of the other, with the inside and the outside surfaces comprised primarily of the opposite sides of the same logs. The following is one of the example packages referred to in 21 V.S.A. 266(c)(4) that applies to log homes:

(1) Minimum R-38 insulation for exterior flat ceilings.

(2) Minimum R-28 insulation for exterior sloped ceilings.

(3) Minimum R-10 insulation for exterior foundation walls.

(4) Minimum R-30 insulation for floors overlaying unheated areas other than the ground.

(5) Minimum R-5 insulation for exterior doors.

(6) Minimum 85 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) for space heating systems.

(7) For single family homes, maximum 12 percent net glazing area as a percentage of gross exterior wall area.

(8) Maximum U-value of 0.4 for glazing, according to a National Fenestration Rating Council, Inc. (NFRC) rating and certification, or nonmetal window frame with double-pane with low-emissivity coating (low-E).

(9) At least double glazing, or single glaze with a storm sash, in basement foundation windows.

(10) Up to three percent of net glazing area may be exempt from the glazing requirement, and one door may be exempt from the door requirement. Glazing in doors must be counted as glazing area in window area calculations.

SECTION 902

COMPLIANCE SOFTWARE

902. Compliance software. In the case of single family homes, the thermal energy performance approach to compliance with the 97 RBES shall consist of a total Ua (overall average heat transmission of a gross area of the exterior building envelope) at least fivepercent below the 1995 MEC requirement, using 95 MEC compliance software. In the case of log homes, as defined in this code, the thermal energy performance approach to compliance with the 97 RBES shall consist of a total Ua no greater than 20 percent above the 95 MEC requirement, using 95 MEC compliance software. In the case of multi-family housing, the thermal energy performance approach to compliance with the 97 RBES shall consist of a total Ua at least 10 percent below the 1995 MEC requirement, using 95 MEC compliance software. Once updated compliance software for the 95 MEC is available, the department of public service in consultation with the building and design community shall determine the equivalent 95 MEC Ua value using the updated compliance software. The equivalent Ua value for the updated compliance software shall then be required.

Sec. 3. 12 V.S.A. 524 is added to read:

524. ACTIONS BASED ON RESIDENTIAL BUILDING ENERGY STANDARDS

(a) Except in the case of fraud, an action under 21 V.S.A. 266(f) shall be commenced within six years after the cause of action accrues, and not after.

(b) The cause of action shall be deemed to accrue as of the date of the recording of a copy of the certificate in the town land records, the date of filing with the department of public service, or the date of occupancy, whichever comes first.

(c) This section shall apply only to actions under 21 V.S.A. 266(f), and shall not be construed to affect other rights and remedies provided by statute or common law.

Approved: May 8, 1997