Change is Underway
The Michigan Bureau of Construction Codes (BCC) has had a very busy year. They have tackled revisions to the Michigan Residential Code (MRC), the Michigan Mechanical Code (MMC) and the commercial energy code. All three updates of these codes are scheduled to be effective by the end of 2016. (See full schedule here).
MIACCA has been participating and monitoring the development of each of these codes having submitted proposals to improve the MRC; been represented by Brad Bartholomew, Bartholomew Heating & Cooling, Inc. on the MMC Review Committee and Ed Bartram, Diversified Heating & Cooling, Inc. serving as our representative on the Commercial Energy Code Review Committee (CECRC).
All in all, Michigan mechanical contractors are in for a year of change when these codes are finalized. Change is most certainly underway.
Keep an eye out for MIACCA for more information and sponsored code update courses when these codes are close to being finalized.
Michigan Residential Code Update
Starting with the residential code, Michigan adopted the 2013 International Residential Code as the base model code. Through a series of closed door, confidential negotiations, specific provisions contained in Chapter 11 Energy Efficiency were decided upon. These negotiations significantly delayed the process and cast a shadow over the development of the code.
Duct sealing, mechanical ventilation and blower door testing will all be required in what will be called the 2015 MRC. All prescriptive energy performance provisions remain the same as the 2009 MRC.
One specific provision moving ahead in the MRC is that all returns are required to be ducted. MIACCA proposed removing this provisions citing that ACCA Manual D Residential Duct Systems allows for returns, not part of the thermal envelope, be constructed without sealed metal ducting. MIACCA estimates this unnecessary code provision adds $75 per run.
Three of our other proposals modified language regarding testing of piping in hydronic, geothermal or trenches allowing for air testing for leaks rather than the prescribed testing using fluids. The concern being that testing done in low-temperature circumstances could cause damage by freezing of the fluid and unnecessarily introduction of environmental hazards. Even though this is an industry practice, BCC and the MMCRC were unwilling to support the language change.
Lastly, we attempted a rather technical re-write of language relating to third party testing and when the inspector can require such inspections. Specifically, language relating to blower door testing where the inspector has the authority to require, “certified third-party testing” triggered our going into a rabbit hole with no resolution found.
Our concerns with piping testing and the authority of the inspector to have third party inspectors is a battle we can fight in the next round of MRC revisions.
Expect the new 2015 MRC codebooks to come out in early to mid December, with the code being effective in late-January or early-February of 2016.
MIACCA will be hosting MRC Update courses for mechanical contractors.
Michigan Mechanical Code Update
Of the three code updates this year, the MMC has been by far the easiest. Michigan based what will be called the 2015 Michigan Mechanical Code on the 2015 International Mechanical Code (IMC).
Certain of our members have taken great exception to the provisions of these codes relating to required mechanical ventilation. As the international codes continue to push tighter buildings, mechanical ventilation becomes the most assured way to deliver fresh air into the building throughout the entire year.
A crosswalk on the variations in definitions between the 2012 MMC and the 2015 IMC reveals a more detailed definition of ‘conditioned space’.
The new definition being:
An area, room, or space that is enclosed within the building thermal envelope and that is directly heated or cooled or that is indirectly heated or cooled. Spaces are indirectly heated or cooled where they communicate through openings with conditioned spaces, where they are separated from conditioned spaces by uninsulated walls, floors, or ceilings or where they contain uninsulated ducts, piping, or other sources of heating and cooling.
The 2015 IMC also adds definitions for exfiltration, infiltration and ductless mini-split systems. Adding these terms is a definite nod to building science and a slight change in emphasis away from centralized heating and cooling systems.
MIACCA made two proposals to the MMC both relating to allowing air testing of piping systems. These proposals were submitted at the same time as those we made to the MRC and met the same end.
Commercial Energy Code Update
Now having had five 6-hour meetings since August, the Commercial Energy Code Review Committee (CECRC) is almost done with their review of ASHRAE 90.1 2013 as it relates to Michigan’s current commercial energy code based on ASHRAE 90.1 2007. Mr. Bartram has carried quite a load in attending these meetings.
The CECRC went through lengthy discussion on what code to use as the model code. The debate centered around using 2015 International Energy Conservation Code or ASHRAE. With the Department of Energy requiring each state to validate it has a commercial energy code at least as stringent as ASHRAE 90.1 2013, the committee decided to use 90.1 2013 as the model code.
Technically speaking for mechanical contractors, the most significant changes will be related to equipment efficiency ratings. Much of this will be handled in design work. For those that design air-conditioning systems, be ready to include an economizer (water cooled or air cooled) for any system 5-tons or larger.
The best thing mechanical contractors who work in commercial projects can do now is obtain and become familiar with ASHRAE 90.1 2013 in preparation for the new Michigan energy code.
The target date for the new commercial energy code to be effective is late 2016.
The Year Ahead
From a policy perspective, Michigan mechanical contractors will have a challenging year ahead. Navigating these new codes is going to be a little tricky.
Chapters 1-4 of the energy code will in fact follow 2015 IECC to comply with the actual administration of the code. The technical provisions for commercial projects will come from ASHRAE. Michigan will also have its own amendments to ASHRAE.
One example is the CECRC recommended elimination of Section 8.4.3 Electric Energy Monitoring. Striking this provision will save new construction owners from being required to invest into extensive sub-metering panel, technology and reporting.
The technical provisions of the residential section of the Michigan energy code will be identical to Chapter 11 of the MRC.
Those of you that work in low-rise multi-family projects (less than four-stories) will have to pay attention to the 2015 MRC, the 2015 MMC and the updated Michigan energy code.
MIACCA will do our best to inform and prepare all of our members for these changes that are underway.