The Ottumwa Courier

April 15, 2014

Marion County building permits on the rise

By Steve Woodhouse
The Chronicle

Marion County — It's expected to be a busy construction season around Marion County. According to County Zoning Administrator Missy Poffenbarger, her office has issued 17 building permits since March 18. 

Of those, 14 have been for home construction (new homes or replacement structures). Poffenbarger chose the March 18 date, as that is when the County changed computer programs for the process. The County is preparing to make online building permit applications available to the public. (Look for more on that in another article.) 

"There's a lot of activity going on," Poffenbarger said. 

Marion County Environmental Health Director Cory Frank reported to the Public Health Board on Friday that he had performed 12 site visits in four days. Environmental reviews are required for new construction. 

Over the past two weeks, his department has issued 12 septic permits and performed 18 site visits. In Frank's estimation, there has been more new construction in Marion County over the last five months than in the past five years. 

A new subdivision is being developed near Pella. In Knoxville, construction of 42 affordable family units is expected to begin in 90 days. Jim Bergman, leader of the Knoxville project, reports that there is not much news on the project, other than a great deal of pre-development work, at this time. 

Poffenbarger added that there are new requirements for home construction, which began April 1. Below is information from a flyer Zoning is providing to the public: 

Iowa homebuyers appreciate the comfort and warmth of well-designed, energy-efficient houses.

With the upgrade of Iowa’s statewide energy code, home buyers now have peace of mind knowing that Iowa homes meet the latest standards for energy efficiency. All new houses in Iowa must meet the minimum requirements of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (2012 IECC). This publication is a summary overview of the 2012 IECC for residential construction with Iowa specific amendments. This statewide energy code becomes effective on April 1, 2014 with a grace period until June 1, 2014.

Significant changes with the new Iowa energy code explained in more detail in this brochure:

• New houses are required to be sealed and tested by a third party to 4ACH50.

• Basement walls require insulation (finishing not required).

• 75% of the permanent light fixtures must have high efficiency bulbs such as CFLS.

• Heating system ductwork located outside of the conditioned (heated) part of a house must be tested for tightness. Return ducts in building cavities must be tested as well. 

• Air barrier material(s) such as spray in-place foam, sealed in-place sheathing, sealed in-place foam board or sealed poly are required in rim band joists, behind tub/shower enclosures on exterior walls and dropped ceilings adjacent to the thermal envelope.

• Programmable/setback thermostats are required in homes with furnaces.

The statewide energy code also gives house buyers an additional tool to use in making their purchase decision–the “Energy Efficiency Components Label.” This label is required in all new houses and is a way for the builder to certify that the house at least meets the minimum code levels for insulation, window, and heating system efficiencies and other energy features required in a new house. The label also ensures that the information about these features is not lost over time. The label will be permanently affixed to the house’s electrical breaker box, so subsequent owners will have the same information available to them.

Since the Energy Code is a state wide code, cities, towns, and counties with building code jurisdictions are required to enforce the state energy code in their jurisdictions. 

A training, regarding the Energy Code, is scheduled to be held Tuesday, May 13, at 2 p.m., at the Marion County Extension Office in Knoxville.