Energy Codes Must Evolve to Achieve Policy Goals

Energy codes are anticipated to play a big role in the building performance targets adopted by many jurisdictions to reduce carbon impacts from the building sector. But as codes target deep efficiencies, conventional code language and enforcement mechanisms face significant challenges to deliver deep savings. Energy codes will need to evolve over several adoption cycles to incorporate new approaches to building performance in order to remain an integral part of building performance policy goals. NBI recently published the Washington State Energy Code (WSEC) Roadmap.

This roadmap will help by providing context for the policy and code performance goals for new buildings and identifying the mechanisms and cycles by which code provisions can evolve to meet these goals in the state of Washington. In 2009 the Washington Legislature mandated that the energy code deliver buildings that are 70% more efficient in 2030 compared to a 2006 baseline. But under the 2006 energy code baseline, between 30 and 60% of building energy use is already driven by aspects of the building like plug loads and equipment that are currently not regulated by the code. Normalized Energy Use GraphUnless the energy code begins to address broader aspects of building energy use, it will be difficult to achieve the savings targeted.

The code will need to evolve to address new elements of building performance, such as plug loads and operational characteristics. And to do this, new approaches to implementation and enforcement will also need to be considered. All of these things take time; they cannot be implemented in a single code cycle. Certain strategies must be in place before others can be adopted, and market players must get used to new code elements before they can be broadly implemented.

To help guide this process NBI has developed the WSEC Roadmap, this document explains how energy codes will need to evolve in the State of Washington to achieve long term goals. This roadmap includes specific discussion of the challenges facing energy code development, from federal rule making and technical challenges, to practical limitations of current enforcement practices. Based on NBI’s extensive experience with leading energy code development all over the country, the roadmap presents a set of clear pathways that need to be followed to support achievement of Washington state policy goals over the next five cycles of energy code adoption.

Learn more with this factsheet.