Adopting the 2009 International Residential Code statewide was a big step for Alabama. Greg Wren, a co-chair of the Alabama Energy and Residential Codes Board, called the move "a monumental achievement" for the state, Builder magazine's John Caulfield reported in March, 2012 ("Alabama Adopts Its First Statewide Building Code") — "and for once," wrote Caulfield, " a politician wasn't exaggerating. A recent analysis of building code adoption and enforcement in 18 coastal states, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, rated Alabama among the least strict."

One of the problematic elements of the 2009 code edition — for builders in every state — is the requirement to test hvac air ducts for airtightness. In Alabama, there's a big push underway to train hvac contractors, builders, and energy auditors to do the testing (Alabama Power offers a two-day course on the topic).

But airtightness testing isn't a trivial skill, and the state has agreed to give builders more time to adjust. "The requirement was originally supposed to go into effect on July 1, 2013, but the number of qualified duct testers just wasn't sufficient to avoid construction delays or assure compliance with the requirement," Jason Reid, Regulatory Affairs Director with the Home Builders Association of Alabama (HBAA) explained in an email to JLC. "The HBAA requested that the Alabama Energy and Residential Codes board delay implementation until January 1, 2014 to allow time for more HVAC contractors to be prepared to comply with the law. They concurred with the request."

But Reid says this will probably be builders' last reprieve. "I sense from the members of the board that there will be no further extension of the duct testing implementation date beyond the January 1 date," he said. Meanwhile, Reid points out, some Alabama towns and counties are already enforcing the duct-testing requirement at the municipal level.