Proposals to drastically cut GHG delivered to IECC committees

This week, New Buildings Institute (NBI) submitted code change proposals to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) residential and commercial development committees. These proposals have the potential to drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the building sector and help jurisdictions meet ambitious GHG reduction targets.

These proposals build on NBI’s five foundations for achieving carbon neutral building policies, focusing on energy efficiency, renewable energy generation, electrification, and grid integration. The proposals also consider the impacts to both new and existing buildings across the residential and commercial codes. A summary of the proposals is available on our website.

In the 2021 IECC development cycle, engagement from a large group of national stakeholders in the process led to significant advancements in energy efficiency and carbon reduction in buildings. After the International Code Council (ICC) made a controversial change to the way it develops and approves this model energy code, engagement from stakeholders throughout the code development process has never been more important.

Engagement from stakeholders throughout the code development process has never been as important.

This Moment Matters

Experts tell us we need to shift to a net zero carbon emissions economy by mid-century in order to avoid severe climate-related impacts. With buildings currently representing 39% of U.S. carbon emissions, leading jurisdictions recognize the importance of using building codes and performance policies to respond to the effects of climate change and reduce future risks. New construction codes and policies when aligned with climate goals are some of the most cost-effective ways for jurisdictions to cut carbon emissions, save energy, improve comfort and health for building occupants in homes and workplaces, and increase housing affordability.

In order to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, new construction in the U.S. must be all-electric by 2025, and climate-optimized by 2030. With just one code development cycle taking us to 2025, and only three to reach 2030, the provisions adopted into this iteration of the IECC are critical to achieve the model code we need to carry us to 2030.

Over the last few months, through the Codes for ClimateTM Initiative we have convened stakeholders to provide input into the IECC development process, including discussing the jurisdiction-supported, climate-aligned code change proposals that NBI has submitted to the ICC. Below are key proposals created by the NBI team for consideration in the 2024 IECC update process, including those with the most potential to impact new and existing buildings.

Key Proposals for a Climate-Aligned 2024 IECC

Commercial and Residential Electrification. The cornerstone of NBI’s Building Decarbonization Code, the proposals to require all-electric buildings are poised to have the largest carbon impact in the 2024 IECC development. Focused on new construction, the easiest and most cost-effective to electrify, this pair of proposals focuses simply on defining an all-electric building, requiring all new construction to be all-electric, and cleaning up vestigial language to aid in enforcement.

Grid Integration. A series of proposals across both commercial and residential applications seek to provide infrastructure to our buildings that can receive and respond to grid signals to use more or less energy depending on current conditions. Building systems that can use energy when it is abundant, clean, and low-cost not only help decarbonize the entire energy system, they also insulate owners from future increases in demand charges and peak hour energy rates – a current and accelerating trend. These proposals build on the work and research of NBI’s Grid Optimal Initiative.

Wayne Aspinall Federal Building & Courthouse, Grand Junction, CO | Architect/Contractor: The Beck Group

Existing Buildings. Addressing existing buildings and retrofits has been a long overlooked area of the energy code. Proposals for existing buildings seek to ensure systems are tested and controls updated to meet modern standards when HVAC and lighting retrofits are completed. Building on the Commercial Points proposal, NBI proposes to move larger renovations further by requiring they select options to move beyond the base code.

Additional proposals move the needle on efficiency and close gaps where the code has fallen behind market practice including expansion of cool roof zones, requirements for dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS), aligning multifamily compliance across commercial and residential sections of the code, refreshing renewable energy definitions, and more.

Stay Involved

Climate-aligned codes will lead to resilient and healthy buildings with lower energy use and carbon emissions when compared with most of today’s new and existing buildings. The code change proposals submitted to the 2024 IECC are the first step in a long code development and adoption process. With this being a critical code cycle in the fight against climate change, it’s essential that governments, companies, NGOs, and individuals support proposals that mitigate the impacts of climate change. Track upcoming events, including IECC commercial and residential committee meetings, by following the ICC codes and standards calendar.

This work supports the Codes for Climate Initiative, launched in June 2021. Codes for Climate helps state and local governments by offering achievable pathways to accelerate the development of carbon neutral buildings. To receive updates, summaries, and notifications of key deadlines and calls to action, sign up for news from Codes for Climate.

The top banner image is of Kansas City, MO.

by Kim Cheslak, Director of Codes
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