Better Energy Codes: It’s not rocket science

Long the turf of behind-the-scenes bureaucrats, energy building codes are now playing a key role in the fight against climate change. Every three years, a group called the International Code Council (ICC) updates building energy codes and releases its “model” code to the world. Model codes are either adopted wholesale by states and local jurisdictions, or used as guidelines in the development of local codes. The ICC is currently hard at work on updates to model energy codes to take effect in 2012. In fact, later this month the ICC will commence with its 2009 Code Development Hearings in Baltimore, Maryland. New Buildings Institute (NBI) is joined by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in proposing comprehensive changes to the International Energy
Conservation Code (IECC), to be discussed during the hearings, that would result in commercial buildings that are up to 30% more efficient than today’s standards. Creating minimum standards that require this level of efficiency is practical, feasible and necessary. Our 2012 IECC proposal is based on a simple set of measures outlined in NBI’s Core Performance Guide. These energy efficiency strategies are not rocket science. They are tried and-true techniques, with demonstrated energy savings, that are within the technical reach of every design or construction team–big or small. Core Performance measures employ “state-of-the-shelf” equipment that is readily available across the country. So exactly what strategies are we talking about? Some of the straightforward and common efficiency measures include: better techniques for sealing and insulating the building, higher specifications for HVAC equipment, more energy-efficient lighting technologies, better windows and options for renewable resources like solar panels. And these measures pay. The proposal that NBI, AIA and DOE have put “on the table” represents an unprecedented step in commercial building energy efficiency codes. Despite the significant scope of the proposed changes, the proposal has great momentum because the industry is ready, the economics are clear, and the policy-makers are demanding it. Now, let’s act as if our climate depended on it. This is an excerpt from Dave Hewitt’s opinion piece on the need for improved model energy codes.