Nebraska Radon Resistant New Construction Law and How it Effects New Home Builders
Effective August 24, 2017
It is the intent of the Legislature that the recommendations provided by the Radon Resistant New Construction Task Force under section 76-3504 be used by the Legislature during the 2019 legislative session to establish, in statute, minimum standards for radon resistant new construction.
The task force shall develop minimum standards for radon resistant new construction and give their recommendations to Governor Ricketts, the HHS Committee and the Urban Affairs Committee of the Legislature by April 15, 2018.
Most likely these minimum standard recommendations will come directly from these resources.
- Appendix F of the 2006 International Residential Code (IRC): Radon Control Methods
- ASTM E1465-08: Standard Practice for Radon Control Options for the Design and Construction of New Low-Rise Residential Buildings
- Section 49.2.5 of NFPA 5000TM: Radon Control Methods, The National Fire Protection Association’s Building Construction and Safety Code
Included in these standards, expect to see the following guidelines.
- Gravel: Use of a 4-inch layer of clean, coarse gravel below the “slab,” of the basement. This layer of gravel allows the soil gases, which includes radon, to move freely underneath the house. Builders call this the “air flow layer” or “gas permeable layer” because the loose gravel allows the gases to circulate. Alternatives such as a perforated pipe or a collection mat may be used.
- Plastic Sheeting or Vapor Retarder: A heavy duty plastic sheeting (6 mil. polyethylene) or a vapor retarder on top of the gravel to prevent the soil gases from entering the house. The sheeting also keeps the concrete from clogging the gravel layer when the slab is poured.
- A Vent Pipe: A 3-inch or 4-inch solid PVC Schedule 40 pipe, like the ones commonly used for plumbing, vertically from the gravel layer (stubbed up when the slab is poured) through the house’s conditioned space and roof to safely vent radon and other soil gases outside above the house. This pipe will be labeled “Radon System.”
- Sealing and Caulking: Sealing of all openings, cracks, and crevices in the concrete foundation floor (including the slab perimeter crack) and walls with polyurethane caulk to prevent radon and other soil gases from entering the home.
- Junction Box: Installation of an electrical junction box (outlet) in the attic for use with a vent fan, should, after testing for radon, an active radon system be necessary.
Benefits of a Passive New Construction Radon Control System:
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has identified radon levels in Nebraska as the third highest in the United States because of the high concentration of uranium in the soil. Radon is a radioactive element that is part of the radioactive decay chain of naturally occurring uranium in soil.
- The techniques are simple and inexpensive.
- If elevated radon levels are found, the passive system can easily be upgraded to an active system that will provide further radon reduction.
- They typically reduce radon levels by about 50%.
- They often reduce concentrations of other soil gases as well.
- They can increase energy efficiency.
- They often help control moisture and sometimes even eliminate that “musty smell” common in basements.
Who Will Make Up the Task Force?
The 17 member task force shall consist of the chief medical officer of the Division of Public Health of the Department of Health and Human Services and shall serve as the chairperson for the task force. Governor Pete Ricketts will make special appointment of:
- Three representatives of home builders’ associations in Nebraska, each from a different congressional district;
- A representative of a home inspectors’ association in Nebraska;
- Two representatives of commercial construction associations, one of whom must have experience related to large-scale projects and one of whom must have experience related to medium-scale to small-scale projects;
- A representative of a Nebraska realtors’ organization;
- A representative of a respiratory disease organization;
- A representative of a cancer research and prevention organization;
- A representative of the League of Nebraska Municipalities;
- Three community public health representatives, each from a different congressional district;
- A professional engineer;
- An architect; and
- A representative with expertise in residential or commercial building codes.
These elite 17 will need to consider including installation specialists as part of the standards. A few of the choices they have would be:
- A requirement that the installation of an active radon mitigation system only be performed by a building contractor or his or her subcontractors or by a radon mitigation specialist;
- A requirement that the installation of radon resistant new construction only be performed by a building contractor or his or her subcontractors or by a radon mitigation specialist; and
- A requirement that only a building contractor or his or her subcontractors or a radon mitigation specialist be allowed to install a radon vent fan or upgrade a passive new construction pipe to an active radon mitigation system.
Article written by:
Leanna Norquest, Radon Measurement and Mitigation Specialist with SRE HomeServices