A Pathway for Outcome-Based Codes

In April, over 60 experts in energy code development and high performance commercial building met in Washington D.C. to discuss the future of outcome-based energy codes, a relatively new concept focusing on how buildings actually perform from an energy perspective, rather than on the feature sets of installed equipment and components. Outcome-based codes and accompanying policies would establish an energy performance target for each building and measure its performance after occupancy to assure expectations are being met.The meeting gathered design and construction professionals, utility representatives, energy efficiency and green building advocates, policymakers and regulatory agencies to begin the process of answering these questions and developing strategies for overcoming the challenges to developing outcome-based energy codes and policies.  A detailed pathway document is currently under development; initial key takeaways from the meeting include: •  While outcome-based energy policies have significant challenges to resolve prior to widespread use, some initial applications are possible today and should move ahead in limited jurisdictions to develop an initial base of experience.•  There are elements of outcome-based policies that can be incorporated into  model and/or current codes today.  Examples include metering requirements, enhanced control strategies, elements of commissioning, modeling enhancements, and compliance strategies for performance-based codes.•  Jurisdictions should consider a broader array of policy options beyond   construction codes to support and augment code strategies; outcome-based codes are one strategy among other outcome-based policy options.  These options include labeling, benchmarking, energy-related inspections and time-certain efficiency requirements. •  Current transaction/contract paths in the industry do not support quality energy outcomes.  These paths will require a thorough review and targeted modifications to support outcome-based codes and policies.  Such codes and policies raise fundamental concerns about “Who is responsible for performance?”  While there are precedents for transaction strategies that more clearly answer this question, conventional contracts do not address the assignment of responsibility for energy use characteristics and actual performance. These are contractual issues that require resolution, and new transactional models need to be vetted, before outcome-based policies can move to broad adoption. The finance, insurance and surety community must be engaged in the resolution of these contractual issues. •  There is a need for better energy data and modeling capabilities to set performance targets.  For some building types, there is sufficient data, but other building types are not well represented in current data sets or have additional energy uses (e.g. process loads) that make target setting difficult. •  Voluntary programs, such as utility and green building efforts, can play an important role in paving the pathway to outcome-based codes and policies.  They can provide data, experience with strategies aimed at ensuring energy performance (such as commissioning and operations-focused program elements), and models for transaction strategies based on energy outcomes. For more information, resources, and pilot projects for outcome-based codes, visit http://www.newbuildings.org/outcome-based-codes A special thank you to the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and Preservation Green Lab. This initial step toward measured building energy performance would not be possible without their support.