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New Approach to Energy Code Compliance Clears Major Hurdle

Thursday, May 8, 2014  
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Outcome-based path would focus on a building’s energy performance during operation

Owners and design teams working toward high energy performance buildings have a potential new ally in the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). The development committee reviewing new proposals for enhancing the IgCC voted 8-5 on May 1 to approve a proposal that would add a first-ever outcome-based compliance path in a model energy code.

The IgCC, which is updated every three years, defines the requirements that need to be met to be considered green. Local governments can then adopt the IgCC for new construction and deep renovation projects in their jurisdictional area.

Building energy codes by nature are prescriptive, but architects and engineers are finding that prescriptive requirements can limit their ability to use integrated systems and innovative technologies that are necessary to lower a building’s energy needs. The outcome-based compliance path would solve that problem, setting targets for the actual energy use of a building and determining compliance through the building’s achievement of that target once in operation. Unlike existing pathways to address energy use—prescriptive or modeled performance options—the outcome-based pathway allows the design team the greatest flexibility and relies on measured energy-use data that can help communities and building owners meet their energy and carbon emissions reduction goals.

“I commend the IgCC Energy & Water Code Committee for recognizing the need for a target-driven approach to actual achievement of energy performance. Including such an approach within the 2015 IgCC will lead to a fundamental shift in how we design, construct and operate buildings,” said Ryan Colker, Presidential Advisor, National Institute of Building Sciences, and the main proponent for the measure.

The IgCC is developed by the International Code Council, a group of code officials and local government representatives that will meet for a final vote on the outcome-based compliance pathway and other proposals Oct. 1-5 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. However, this recent approval by the IgCC committee is extremely important because it means a much higher likelihood of ultimate adoption. With the committee’s approval, the proposal (GEW-147) needs only 50% of the voting body to approve. 

Testimony submitted by an assortment of industry representatives, including the National Institute of Building Sciences, New Buildings Institute (NBI), Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), Grundfos, Target Corporation and the Colorado Chapter of the ICC, was enough to convince the committee to favor the proposal.

“Buildings account for over 40% of the energy consumed in the United States,” explained Ralph DiNola, NBI Executive Director. “The design community has the capability to bring that number down significantly, but is limited by prescriptive codes, which can restrict the innovation necessary to create ultra-low energy buildings. As proponents of better energy efficiency in the built environment, we at NBI are delighted by the outcome of the committee hearing,” he said.

About the 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.

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