One Big Step in the Creation of Better Building Codes

Back in February of this year, we discussed California’s adoption of the first statewide green building codes, referred to as “CALGreen.” The news was refreshing and energizing, considering that some states still don’t even have a standard building code on the books.

Building codes are effectively a set of rules that specify the minimum acceptable level of safety for constructed objects. As energy costs rise and as the environmental movement continues to develop momentum, more states and cities are adopting policies that encourage or require construction to be energy efficient.

The Institute for Market Transformation, a D.C.-based non-profit that promotes green building, issued a press release about a vote that meant historic gains for new homes and commercial buildings with respect to energy efficiency.

The vote, which took place in Charlotte, N.C., occurred after the 2012 Final Action Hearings for the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). These model energy codes for new homes and commercial buildings will likely achieve the 30 percent boost sought by the DOE and other groups.

Cliff Majersik, Executive Director of IMT, considers this move to be a “big deal,” stating that “these changes to the model energy code will slash pollution from power plants and furnaces while saving Americans billions of dollars in energy bills.”

The new codes for residential improvements, proposed by the DOE and other stakeholders, are meant to address the sealing of homes, efficiency of windows and skylights, insulation, hot-water distribution systems and lighting efficiency.

The new code package for commercial buildings, which includes many of the envelope improvements addressed in the residential portion, proposes efforts like continuous air barriers, day lighting controls, the use of renewable energy and the incorporation of more efficient HVAC equipment and better lighting systems. It also requires “commissioning” of new buildings, which helps to link building design with long term building performance, utilizing quality assurance that monitors and makes energy saving corrections.

The bottom line is simple…saving energy saves money. Who wouldn’t like to improve cash flow or have a little extra cash saved up around the house? A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that 30 percent energy savings in an average home returns $511 a year to the homeowner, not to mention that these energy related improvements build value.

The next step in the process is for the 2012 IECC to be implemented by states and localities, where code compliance is critical. The American Chemistry Council, whose many products contribute to energy efficiency in buildings, issued a statement commending the ICC’s achievement and urged every state and locality in the nation to “adopt, implement and enforce the 2012 model energy conservation code.”

Hopefully, states and localities will strategically and thoughtfully implement and enforce these codes.

For more information about the building codes in your state, click here.

Cory Vanderpool joined EnOcean Alliance as the Business Development Director for North America. Prior to this role, she was Executive Director of GreenLink Alliance, a non profit organization dedicated to promoting energy conservation in buildings and tax incentives for building owners. Before establishing GreenLink, Cory worked in business development supporting a government contracting firm focused on civilian and defense markets. In addition to her work at EnOcean, Cory is also pursuing her PhD in Environmental Policy at George Mason University and is a part-time contributing writer at Triple Pundit.

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