After a three-year hiatus, the Department of Energy’s National Energy Codes Conference returned in March 2015 for two and half days of inspiring education and a reminder of the importance of energy code support in our country. The March 23-26, 2015 conference was a great success thanks to the over 250 attendees, session speakers, moderators, and plenary speakers who brought so much enthusiasm to the conference. For those who missed the conference, this article brings you insights from our plenary speakers, links to the session presentations and conference photos.
While the two conference plenary speakers come from entirely different industries with different goals, each spoke to the big compliance challenges we’re facing today and the critical role building energy codes play in making energy-efficient buildings the new norm for building construction.
Opening Plenary Speaker: Suzanne Shelton, President & CEO of Shelton Group
The founder of Shelton Group, Suzanne Shelton leads the nation’s top marketing communications firm committed to defining and leveraging sustainability and energy efficiency stories to gain a market advantage. In her opening plenary remarks, Shelton shared her firm’s market research data to show that consumers want efficient homes and buildings but many do not know where to start or what specific action steps to take in order to increase energy efficiency in their buildings. She also pointed out that more people, especially the younger generation, simply expect home and buildings to come already efficient (See the BCAP article regarding other consumer surveys).
- “We can work to motivate [consumers] to increase efficiency on their own, or we could also ‘do it for them.’” Consumers do not necessarily realize the magnitude of the negative impacts inefficient buildings have on their health and environment. And it is our [energy code stakeholders’] job to wake consumers up to the fact that they have a problem. We need to deliver the right message to the right segment in ways consumers can understand and make it easy for them to want to increase efficiency by offering logical action steps they can take. But Shelton rightly points out that we can’t entirely rely on consumers’ demand for more energy efficiency if we want more than 1-2% of energy code adoption per year. We need to continue working with state and local policymakers to stay current with energy code adoption and enforcement. And we need to create “carrots and sticks.” Many reward and incentive programs have been created for consumers being more efficiency conscious but not much has been done for those who choose inefficiency. For Shelton, it was a no-brainer: “Make the ‘bad’ options less convenient.”
Closing Plenary Speaker: Steve Easley, Principal of Steve Easley & Associates
By focusing on increasing quality of construction, sustainability, performance, and reducing costly mistakes, Steve Easley turned his love of building science into a platform to bring diverse energy code stakeholders together to understand the fundamental truth of energy codes: buildings must be durable, energy efficient, healthy, and comfortable to live and work in.
With an authentic voice and scientific evidence, Easley explains…
- “The best system would be to test the building, not just the materials and assemblies.” Even if every building component is energy-efficient, if they are assembled improperly and not tested for efficiency verification it is not guaranteed that the building is energy-efficient.
- “Building science behind the code training is critical to the code compliance and enforcement.” Scientific evidence is the greatest asset to creating more viable support for energy codes. Building science of energy codes provides a reason and explanation for states to adopt the latest model energy codes and comply with them. It also helps code officials to enforce the energy codes because as Easley reminds us, “Code officials won’t enforce a code they don’t’ understand.” For example, a building built to the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) or an older code will not be as air-tight as a building built to the 2015 IECC and will use more energy to keep it from getting too hot or cold. To make a more compelling case for all energy code stakeholders to adopt, comply with, and enforce a more energy-efficient code, we need the scientific evidence to prove that a building built to an energy-inefficient building code will have:
- Poor moisture management
- High window to wall area ratio
- Wrong glazing choices
- Ineffective air barrier system
- Poorly installed insulation
- High framing factor, thermal bridging
- Poorly designed/installed HVAC
- DHWH and Lighting as an afterthought
Missed a presentation or couldn’t attend the conference? Visit the DOE National Energy Codes Conference homepage.
BCAP also prepared a conference post-report for the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.