November 24, 2014–Cities and states looking at energy efficient buildings to help meet energy goals are getting a boost from the 2015 International Green Construction Code (IgCC). 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.
While energy codes often represent the minimum efficiency standards a building must meet by law, the IgCC is a “green” code that provides progressive jurisdictions 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% of greenhouse gases.
One notable new section of the IgCC represents an historic shift in the way we approach building energy code compliance. The outcome-based compliance 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 actual energy savings.
The pathway allows for greater innovation in energy efficiency by offering the flexibility to move beyond component-by-component requirements to system-level savings opportunities. It also reduces the burden on code departments to enforce complex code requirements.
New Buildings Institute (NBI) joined with an assortment of industry representatives, including the National Institute of Building Sciences (Institute), Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), Grundfos, Target Corporation, Green Building Initiative (GBI) and the Colorado Chapter of the ICC to educate the industry, which helped to convince the IgCC committee and the ICC membership to favor the proposal.
“The adoption of the outcome-based pathway presents a sea change in the way building codes can be met,” said NBI Director of Codes and Policy Jim Edelson. “Cities can now effectively drive better policies in their building sector, design teams gain flexibility to innovate, and building code officials have a streamlined process for validating that a building is operating to code ,” he said.
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 the Zero Energy Performance Index (zEPI), which presents a stable energy scale for performance of a building compared to similar average buildings and to measure the progress toward zero net 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.
In addition to an increased focus on energy performance, the IgCC enhanced its provisions around energy supply and control. The voting members adopted 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.
New language was added to the IgCC that increased the effectiveness of existing demand response provisions that makes available the use of smart thermostats for this purpose. This will lead to more buildings with demand-response capabilities. 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.
Development of the IgCC follows a year-long process and results in a green overlay code for the ICC’s suite of I-Codes. The IgCC includes requirements for a range of issues pertinent to sustainability, including a substantial portion dedicated to energy efficiency.
For more information:
Stacey Hobart, New Buildings Institute, 503-407-2148, [email protected]
About New Buildings Institute
New Buildings Institute (NBI) is a nonprofit organization working to improve the energy performance of commercial buildings. As a technical resource for governments, utilities, energy efficiency advocates and the building industry, NBI acts as a carrier of ideas between these groups and works collaboratively to put the best innovations for advanced buildings into action. Our primary work areas are focused on creating the thought leadership that defines “What’s Next?” in our industry, assessing effectiveness of emerging technologies, promoting best practice design approaches and helping to guide policies and programs that will significantly improve the energy efficiency of commercial buildings.