A majority of states have developed comprehensive energy plans that provide recommendations for increasing efficiencies across numerous sectors. As buildings account for around 40% of national energy consumption, one aspect of these state plans should be building energy codes. This article will provide a brief overview of how several recently published state plans are addressing building concerns.
Maine (February 2015)
Because of the high demand for home heating oil in the state, one of Maine’s top priorities is to increase the efficiencies of residential building envelopes and heating systems. Maine is very dependent on petroleum for home heating, spending a higher percentage of its GDP on residential energy than any other state. The Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC), roughly equivalent to the 2009 IECC, only applies to municipalities with at least 4,000 people; the relatively rural and scattered distribution of Maine’s residents means that these minimum energy efficiency standards only cover about 65% of the population. Unfortunately, the policy recommendations in this 2015 plan overlook the opportunity to include an expansion of the MUBEC. The plan does strongly recommend increasing opportunities for homeowners to install energy efficiency improvements.
Missouri (October 2015)
Missouri buildings are responsible for about half of the state’s energy use, according to 2012 data from EIA. However, the characteristics of building energy consumption have changed significantly over the past couple of decades: where once residential consumption was dominated by space heating and cooling, better envelope and equipment components have shrunk weather-related energy demands. Meanwhile, the energy consumption of appliances, electronics, and lighting have increased relative to overall usage. Missouri has no mandatory or voluntary statewide code for private residential or commercial buildings. Instead, energy codes are adopted and enforced at the county or municipal level. Jurisdictions representing about 50% of the state’s population have adopted codes equivalent to either the 2009 or 2012 IECC. The 2015 energy plan recommends enacting a statewide code applicable to Class 1 and 2 counties for both residential and commercial new construction. Class 1 and 2 counties together represent four million people – about 67% of the state’s population. This means that the changes recommended in this plan would increase mandated energy efficiency in buildings for at least a million Missourians. The energy plan also recommends allowing Class 3 and 4 countries – home to the other 33% – to adopt energy codes for residential and commercial new construction.
New Mexico (September 2015)
New Mexico’s current energy code, applicable statewide, is based on the 2009 IECC for residential and commercial construction. Local jurisdictions are permitted to adopt more stringent energy codes. A September 2012 DOE/PNNL analysis found that moving to the 2012 IECC for new single- and multi-family homes would save homeowners $288 per year on average. Despite this, the 2015 energy plan for New Mexico has no suggestions for updating the state’s energy code, only recommendations for increasing energy efficiency in public buildings (including state office buildings, K-12 schools, universities, and prisons). As of 2012, residential and commercial buildings accounted for 35% of end-use energy consumption.
New York (June 2015)
Buildings represent roughly 60% of energy consumption in New York, but the state also has one of the highest efficiencies per capita, second only to Rhode Island. The 2009 state energy plan for New York identified energy code enforcement as “the most important local responsibility in realizing the state’s energy policy objectives”. The 2015 plan follows up on this by identifying energy efficiency in buildings as one of seven distinct initiatives. Having recently moved all new construction to 2012 IECC standards, New York is now in the process of updating its minimum standards to the 2015 IECC and ASHRAE 90.1-2013, with all changes expected to go into effect by mid-2016. Furthermore, the Department of State (DOS) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will collaborate to improve compliance and enforcement. New York has also committed to a 20% improvement in state building efficiency by 2020; this initiative is being coordinated by BuildSmart NY. Overall, this plan makes it clear that the state is already making bold progress towards a more efficient future.
Vermont (October 2015, public review draft only)
Vermont recently updated both its residential and commercial energy codes to the 2015 IECC. This plan identifies codes as an important tool for avoiding inefficiencies in “long-lived products and infrastructure” such as buildings. Like New York, Vermont includes recommendations for moving beyond the most recent national code. These include building all construction to net zero standards by the 2030 and having new homes meet Energy Star standards in the interim period. The state’s plan also outlines compliance strategies to realize the full potential of adopting these up-to-date codes, including the recently formed Energy Code Compliance Collaborative. Vermont is also showing initiative with its Energy Code Compliance Plan, developed in 2012 and referenced in this plan.