What do the State of Vermont and NBI have in common (besides a soft spot for counterculture energy nerds)? I’d answer that both are small in stature but have built legacies around aggressively pushing for codes and policies that promote energy efficiency. Despite ranking 49th in terms of population according to the US Census Bureau, Vermont sits at number 3 on the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) 2014 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which ranks every state on its energy efficiency policy and program efforts. Only Massachusetts and California received higher scores in 2014. Keeping in line with their commitment to strengthening energy efficiency as a way to promote economic growth, reducing their environmental impact and increasing the resiliency of their communities, Vermont has finalized an update to its Commercial Building Energy Standards (CBES), making it the first state in the country to adopt a building energy code based on the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The 2015 CBES will become effective March 1, 2015. While Vermont is the first to take this step, Washington state close behind, being part way through development of a 2015 IECC-based energy code. And a slate of other states and cities are planning to follow shortly.
NBI was able to participate in this process very early on by providing a framework document outlining the relative stringencies of the requirements for various codes and standards. This document was used to inform the state and the code development team of what options were available to them. Working through this process it became evident that, with amendments, the current CBES was already close to the IECC 2012. The state should now look beyond the 2012 model code to the 2015 iteration that would provide more significant energy savings in newly constructed and renovated commercial buildings.
Additionally Vermont has committed to developing its first stretch code for projects that need to meet additional requirements under Vermont’s Act 85. NBI has helped inform the scope of the stretch code as well as reviewed and provided comments as part of the development process. With this stretch code Vermont will be joining the growing number of jurisdictions across the nation that are using stretch codes to tie more energy savings to a wide variety of “carrot-and-stick” mechanisms.
As we look forward to 2015 and consider New Year’s resolutions, it would serve us well to consider the precedent set by the State of Vermont and its 626,630 residents — you don’t have to be big to have a big impact.