Stricter Energy Codes May Impact Your Ability To Expand

Stricter Energy Codes May Impact Your Ability To Expand

interior view EDDG vent_energy efficiency codesAre you aware stricter energy codes may be on the horizon that will impact your business in a big way? Energy codes have taken root, and the greenhouse industry is under pressure to conform. Without some type of intervention, you may find it more difficult to build in the future.

In the spring of 2014, industry leaders met informally to discuss how codes and standards are being addressed in individual states, across the nation and in Europe. The National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association (NGMA) fall 2014 newsletter shared the following overview:

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  • The greenhouse industry is facing pressure to comply with building codes.
  • Energy codes are just starting to
    be adopted.
  • It is believed that either the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) or the ICC (International Code Council), two competing organizations, will likely become the prevailing organization in the United States.
  • NGMA would prefer to have the building codes applied to greenhouses rather than having a separate building code chapter.
  • Germany is publishing building standards for greenhouses. The process is now moving to the European Union organization. Attempts have been made to declare greenhouses exempt or for greenhouses to have their own chapter.
  • A vision for the industry would be for all countries to follow the same standards for greenhouses.

How Will Stricter Energy Codes Affect Our Industry?

Here’s a Q&A from the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association between George Lucas, owner of Lucas Greenhouses, and Craig Humphrey, vice president of engineering for Nexus Corporation and chair of the NGMA Codes and Standards committee, that helps explain the dangers of the coming energy codes and what we as an industry can do to prevent them.

NGMAGeorge Lucas: Craig, what’s up with this energy standard thing, this ASHRAE 90.1, and why is NGMA concerned about it?

Craig Humphrey: “ASHRAE,” George, is the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, and they write different standards. One standard is 90.1, which is the energy standard for commercial buildings.

These days, to build any building, most states and municipalities require you to meet the energy code. Most of the codes are based off of ASHRAE 90.1 or the IECC.

Currently, there are no exemptions for greenhouses in this or any other standard dealing with the insulative properties of the building coverings. The NGMA is proposing language that would give some relief to greenhouse structures.

George Lucas: What’s it got to do with me and other greenhouse operators?

Craig Humphrey: To get a permit, an owner would have to do an energy check, and they wouldn’t pass with normal greenhouse coverings, as it is now written.

George Lucas: Are you telling me the code guys don’t know the difference between a warehouse and a greenhouse, and that they would hold my poly or glass greenhouse to the exact same standard as a typical insulated building?

Craig Humphrey: That’s where we are, without some changes from a building official.

George Lucas: What’s NGMA doing regarding the standard? What changes are you proposing to ASHRAE?

Craig Humphrey: In previous 90.1 versions, greenhouses could be exempted of the building envelope requirements. We’re proposing language to define greenhouses and allow exemptions for these covering requirements.

George Lucas: What happens if NGMA does nothing? Any chance it’ll just go away and all will be fine?

Craig Humphrey: Energy codes are here to stay. As the state and federal governments try to gain more energy independence, it’s only going to increase. If the NGMA doesn’t work to get exemptions, then we’ll be unable to meet the current requirements for energy savings with current greenhouse coverings.

George Lucas: Should I be worried that new standards will make it almost impossible to build a new greenhouse?

Craig Humphrey: Yes, as we know it now. It may be a warehouse with thousands of lights. And yes, most people do realize that that scenario isn’t energy-efficient either. We do have proponents within the U.S. Department of Energy and other organizations who see the issue clearly, but we have to continue the fight until the language is changed.

George Lucas: In other words, this is serious. So what does NGMA need from greenhouse owners like myself? Can we help the cause?

Craig Humphrey: Greenhouse owners can be involved by asking their architects and engineers who understand and have dealt with the issue to write letters in support of our efforts. You can contact the NGMA office (717-238-4530) to get information on what to include in your letter. Any help financially from state and national grower organizations would also be welcome.

George Lucas: What’s in it for NGMA, Craig? Why is the association fighting this?

Craig Humphrey: Someone needs to stand up for our industry, and the NGMA took up the cause on behalf of our grower and retailer community. It’s nearly impossible for one greenhouse owner to do battle with the bureaucracy. By pooling our resources, we’re able to hire consultants to help us cut through the chaos. GG

This article is reprinted with permission from the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association. The original article, “Greenhouse Manufacturers Fight Energy Code Changes,” is found online at Bit.ly/NGMAEnergyCodeChanges. Visit the NGMA.com for more information.