View the complete text of Act 20

ACT NO. 20

Residential Building Energy Standards

This act adopts residential building energy standards (RBES) that apply, in certain instances specified in more detail in the act, to the new construction of residential buildings and the construction of residential additions that create 500 square feet, or more, of new floor space. The standards do not apply to certain highly efficient buildings or additions, certain manufactured housing, hunting camps, multi-family housing more than three stories in height, buildings that are neither heated or cooled, or residential construction with respect to which all of the following apply:

(1) the owner has the power to direct construction;

(2) the owner uses the residential construction as a dwelling;

(3) the owner directs installation of materials that do not comply with the code; and

(4) the owner discloses in writing to a prospective buyer, before entering into a binding purchase and sale contract, with respect to the nature and extent of noncompliance with the code, and files the disclosure in the land records and with the department of public service.

The construction of a residential addition does not create a requirement that the entire building comply. In situations where the standards do apply, a certification of compliance with RBES must be affixed at a specified location inside the building, a certification of compliance must be recorded and indexed in the town land records, and a copy of the certification must be provided to the department of public service.

The RBES incorporate by reference the energy standards contained in the Model Energy Code prepared by the Council of American Building Officials, and contains certain revisions established by the legislature in the act itself. The act requires the standards to be updated on January 1, 1999, and every three years thereafter, by administrative rule adopted by the commissioner oflabor and industry, who is to receive expert advice from the department of public service, and from an advisory committee that is composed of persons with specified expertise and experience and that is convened at least a year prior to adoption of a required revision. The advisory committee shall also provide advice with respect to the coordination of the RBES amendments with existing and proposed demand side management programs offered by utilities. The act requires that in the first cycle of revision, the commissioner shall establish standards for ventilation and shall consider certain specific requirements with respect to exhaust-only ventilation systems and with respect to replacement air for wood and pellet stoves and fireplaces. Revisions are required to be consistent with state energy policy and with duly adopted state housing policy, are required to be evaluated for their technical applicability and reliability, and are to be cost-effective and affordable from the consumer’s perspective. Revisions may amend any part of the RBES, whether adopted specifically by the legislature, or by reference. A home energy rating from a Vermont-accredited home energy rating organization, indicating energy performance that is equivalent to the RBES shall be an acceptable means of demonstrating compliance.

The act requires the department of public service to develop criteria that may be used in lieu of computer software, calculations and trade-off worksheets, or systems analysis, in order to comply with the code. The act provides that code compliance shall be given certain presumptive weight in Act 250, on energy conservation matters other than the use of electric resistance space heating; and it creates a process by which the department of public service shall provide accreditation to home energy rating organizations and information to the public about accredited organizations. The act makes certain amendments to the current model energy code, adding sections relating to fireplaces, domestic hot water systems, exhaust dampers for fans, and compliance software. The act adopts a general example package and an additional example package that applies only to log homes, and it requires that updated example packages be included in the rules as they are updated.

Effective Date: July 1, 1997. Before July 1, 1998, the act applies only to residential construction that is subject to the jurisdiction of Act 250.