As we move toward Thanksgiving this Thursday, the recent adoption of the 2015 International Green Construction Code (IgCC) gives cities and states a lot to be thankful for. Four critical proposals that will drive significant improvements in building energy performance were approved when final voting on the model energy code closed earlier this month. These proposals provide critical tools for jurisdictions looking at improved building efficiency as one of the opportunities to meet energy goals.
While energy codes often represent the minimum efficiency standards a building must meet by law, the IgCC is a “green” code that provides a mechanism to achieve a cleaner energy mix, more energy efficient buildings, and lower energy costs across the energy grid. Buildings are responsible for 40% of carbon emissions in the U.S. and in some cities represent as much as 80%.NBI works with partners to enhance the energy sections of the IgCC making it easier for building professionals and owners to achieve higher efficiency levels in commerical structures and for code officials to verify energy performance. Notable new sections of the IgCC that were supported by NBI include:Outcome-based compliance. An historic shift in the way we approach building energy code compliance, this pathway sets energy-use targets by building type and climate zone, with the goal of actually achieving expected energy results rather than relying on prescriptive measures or predicted models that may not yield expected energy or cost savings.Zero Energy Performance Index (zEPI). To help design teams access the energy use targets in the outcome path and more easily apply the new revised modeling path, the IgCC also updated zEPI, which presents a stable energy scale for performance of a building compared to similar average buildings and to measure the progress toward net zero energy. zEPI, conceived by NBI Fellow Charles Eley, uses an absolute scale from 0 to 100 with zero representing a net zero energy building and 100 representing the average energy consumption for that building type and location. The draft zEPI graphic represented here illustrates the important benchmarks for building efficiency along the zEPI scale. Renewable Energy. The new IgCC includes a complete revision of requirements for the safe installation of minimum levels of onsite renewable energy systems, or for verified Renewable Energy Credits where renewable energy is not accessible. Solar or photovoltaic systems are becoming commonly used for onsite power supply of high performance buildings and have seen rapid price declines in the past few years.Demand Response. Demand response (DR) refers to the ability to adjust energy use in response to a price or information signal from a grid operator or other automated source, and its spread should lower utility costs and increase grid reliability. New language was added to the IgCC that increased the effectiveness of existing demand response provisions that makes available the use of smart thermostats.I often hear that energy codes are mundane and I agree that sometimes the machinations of the development process can seem boring. But these four provisions that were approved for the 2015 IgCC offer solid energy code language for the future of building efficiency–performance outcomes, energy use targets, renewables and demand response. This language will make it easier for progressive jurisdictions to drive true efficiency and energy savings from buildings as well as cut carbon emissions. Certainly something we can all celebrate.Links to more information about these specific provisions can be found above. For more information about the IgCC outcomes and NBI’s work on outcome-based performance, see links below:Read the full press release on the 2015 IgCCRead our blog on the recent performance outcomes summit and next stepsRead our blog on outcome-based code compliance in the IgCCRead our blog on the history of zEPI