Although it’s constantly in progress and changes won’t be active for another year, here is a quick look at the latest on progress within the Energy Code.
As you most likely already know, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is the model building energy code that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy, stated in federal law and used by more than 40 states; the code is updated every three years based on input from code officials, efficiency advocates, builders and more. The process of updating the code is lengthy, with the latest update having been in progress for over a year.
So why so much emphasis on energy codes in recent years and what is the point? It’s simple and complex at the same time. To start, Americans spend more than $200 billion each year on their energy bills (source: EIA). That being stated, the Department of Energy recently reported that a mere 4%-5% increase in stringency of the building energy code could cumulatively save consumers $126 billion on energy bills from 2010-2040 (source: EnergyCodes.gov), not to mention the importance of sustainability and energy efficiency. The truth is that it is much more costly and cumbersome to make modifications to an existing building for the purpose of energy efficiency rather than to get it right and more efficient on the front-end and during construction, in this case within the code.
According to the latest from the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), the 2018 IECC was finally approved by code officials after several rounds of review, and it resulted in support for upholding the efficiency requirements of previous years’ energy codes for building owners. (source: NRDC.org) With the previous code in place and business as usual, there were no major additions, and the gains that were made in previous cycles of the code are being maintained. There were a variety of proposals, and those that would have significantly weakened the code didn’t make the cut, as well as those that may have helped states and municipalities achieve carbon neutrality. Although there appears to be a bit of a flatlining in the upcoming code, according to NRDC, there were a few successful proposals that are expected to make homes and businesses more efficient in 2018:
On the residential side of the code, these will clarify how the Energy Rating Index (ERI) path of the code is calculated to ensure consistency for consumers, require a minimum level of efficiency for homes that meet the code with renewable energy, and mandate the installation of more efficient windows in most climate zones. Commercial buildings (including large multifamily buildings) will be required to have more efficient showerheads. (Source: NRDC)
Although proposals have been approved, votes still need to be confirmed and certified in the months ahead. The final version of the 2018 IECC is slated to be published in the middle to end of this year. Once the Department of Energy has analyzed the energy savings of the new code and all approvals have been processed, states are expected to adopt the code once it goes into effect in 2018.
For more details on the proposals, from position briefs to important dates and timelines, visit the U.S. Department of Energy website here. Other useful resources include the Building Code Assistance Project, where users can utilize maps that provide a snapshot of building energy code adoption (including the status of energy codes) by state.
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