Step 4. Inspect the Building During and After Construction
A number of website resources offer checklists to help officials organize the many energy-code-related areas to inspect on the construction site.
Several examples of different checklists are listed below. When applicable and approved for use, REScheck and COMcheck inspection checklists should be provided as part of the energy code compliance documentation for the building.
- REScheck/COMcheck checklists. The REScheck and COMcheck software programs generate reports that list the energy-code-related items to be inspected. The lists include mandatory items such as air leakage control, duct insulation and sealing, temperature controls, and lighting requirements, and can be used by officials to assist during on-site inspections. The code official should ensure that the information provided in the REScheck/COMcheck documentation matches what is seen in the field.
Quick reference REScheck and COMcheck guides for the code official are available in the BECP Code Officials Resource Guide (see page 30 for REScheck and page 119 for COMcheck).
- Building Energy Codes Resource Guide (see chapters on Residential Inspections and Commercial Inspections). This particular resource guide was written specifically for code officials and contains over 200 pages of valuable information on plan reviews and inspections for both residential and commercial applications.
- ICC Energy Inspector’s Guide The guide is designed to assist the field inspector in verifying code compliance and in completing energy field inspections efficiently and with relative ease by identifying many common code requirements. The guide covers the 2009 IECC and ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007. The Energy Inspector’s Guide is available for purchase from the ICC website.
- California Energy Commission (CEC). At this site there are separate columns for materials related to residential or nonresidential construction. Each column has links to flowcharts that list the steps needed during each stage of the enforcement process from plan review to construction inspection, to final inspection. Additionally, there are checklists and guides for inspectors giving detailed information on what to look for in many of the code requirements, such as insulation for heated slabs. Although written for California’s unique energy code requirements (known as Title 24), the guides may be helpful for inspecting for compliance with other codes such as the IECC and ASHRAE Standard 90.1.
Specific Inspection Challenges and Resources
Some areas of on-site inspections can be challenging, and there are a number of resources available to provide detailed explanations and/or videos of what inspectors should be looking for and how to identify problems.
In this section a few problematic areas identified during BECP’s compliance pilot studies are addressed, as well as links to resources targeting these areas.
Determining lighting compliance, especially in commercial buildings, can be difficult. The following tips can help make the job easier.
- Rely on the lighting plans and specifications that were approved as part of the permitting process. These should contain the details on all equipment installed to meet the energy code requirements. However, it is also good to have a checklist of the code requirements to check against the plans.
- If possible, consult with the building’s lighting designer. They should be available to help locate specific installed controls (e.g., whole building shutoff systems) and provide verification of equipment types and wattages.
- For interior and exterior lighting power density compliance, refer to the lighting plans that were approved for energy code compliance as part of the permitting process. These will show the layout of the lighting fixtures in each space (reflected ceiling plans) and indicate equipment type (lighting schedule sheet). Selected rooms can be visited to verify fixture counts, as well as lamp and ballast types installed.
- For controls such as occupancy sensors, refer to the design plan to identify which rooms contain the sensors. Rooms can then be randomly selected to verify the controls are functioning as required.
For residential requirements in the 2009 IECC, 50% of the lamps (bulbs) in permanently installed fixtures for the whole building (i.e., both inside and outside the dwelling) must be of a high-efficacy type. For residential requirements in the 2012 IECC, 75% of the lamps (bulbs) in permanently installed fixtures must be of a high-efficacy type or 75% of the permanently installed fixtures must contain only high-efficacy lamps. There are no control-related requirements in the 2009 or 2012 IECC for residential buildings.
It is critical that the insulation be properly installed in order for the full effectiveness of the insulation to be realized.
Even small gaps and compressed areas can reduce insulating levels significantly.
For example, compressing fiberglass insulation reduces its effectiveness such that it does not achieve the rated R-value.
The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) has set an industry standard for insulation installation. Although this standard is not required specifically in the energy codes, it is good practice and is referenced in ENERGY STAR for Homes Version 3. RESNET assigns insulation grades based on gaps and compression or incompletely filled areas, with Grade I being the best. For example, Grade I allows for “occasional very small gaps” and up to 2% of the insulated area can have compression or incomplete fill. For more information, visit RESNET.
DOE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) and Building America Program have several resources related to the proper installation of insulation in residential buildings. These resources do not cover the code requirements specifically but offer best practice suggestions.
- DOE’s BTO fact sheet, “Wall Insulation, Provide Moisture Control and Insulation in Wall Systems,” describes effective wall insulation and the various insulation types.
- DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy offers an insulation fact sheet focused on homes and discusses why homes should be insulated and how insulation works.
- A Building America Partner, Building Science Corporation has an information sheet, “Installation of Cavity Insulation for All Climates,” that covers the installation techniques important to achieving the effective performance of cavity insulation.
- Another Building Science Corporation information sheet covers slab edge insulation, “Slab Edge Insulation for All Climates.”
- An article in Home Energy, “Insulation Inspections for Home Energy Ratings: Assessing insulation gaps, compression, and incomplete fill provides a way to measure installation effectiveness,” provides additional information on quality insulation installation.
- Southface Energy Institute’s Energy technical bulletins include several related to insulation installation.
- Northwest Energy Star critical details come in the form of color checklists and photos that depict both poor and proper installations of insulation.
- The CEC developed a variety of educational videos to support energy code adoption, compliance, and enforcement. Videos are available that provide overviews of the five most common types of insulation.
Spray foam insulation
Structural insulated panels
Rigid foam insulation
Most of these materials apply to commercial building installation as well.
- Lighting Topic Brief
- BECP Inspection Checklists
- BECP Training Material — Over a dozen instructional videos relating to framing, duct sealing, insulation, lighting controls, air leakage, commissioning, and others.
- Southface — The Building Energy Codes section of the Southface website contains field guides for both residential and commercial applications for Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Although specific to the energy codes applicable in each of these states, they could easily be applied in other states. The field guides contain examples from over 50 chosen provisions of the IECC together with diagrams and photographs allowing the user to easily visualize the provision. Each field guide is accompanied by a 10-15 minute video offering further explanations on use of the guide.