Time For Action: Why We Need To Say Yes To Building Energy Codes

At BCAP’s Annual Energy Codes Stakeholders Meeting in Washington D.C. on December 9th, several key threads emerged from the wealth of energy code knowledge and discourse that unfolded during the day. As we as a community push forward to develop new strategies for better buildings in the coming years, we should also work to deploy the information and policies already at our disposal.

For example, a glance at one of BCAP’s recent code adoption maps reveals that many states are still basing their energy codes on models from a decade or more ago, and some states do not use mandated codes at all. There is enormous potential for energy savings in the countless buildings around the country where only minimal attempts at compliance have been made. At this stage of progress, the data suggests that introducing ever-higher levels of efficiency into the national model codes may be less productive than unlocking the full potential of existing codes. By leveraging established recent model codes over a wider swath of the country, energy code stakeholders can start to close to huge gap between the most energy-conscious jurisdictions and the ones that are falling behind.

When working towards wider implementation, we also need to be mindful of how thoroughly compliance is being documented, and how difficult that evaluation can be. Does the building still meet the code when occupants use more electricity and heat than originally anticipated? What variability in existing standards can we use to account for energy-intensive building typologies, such as restaurants and data centers? Developing a more advanced energy code will always be a part of the building code groups’ agenda, but considering other influencing factors and their impact at every stage is important as well.

Finally, although this conference was geared towards those in the field who fall under the umbrella of energy code stakeholders, in reality this is an issue that is going to affect the entire population. As of 2012, Americans spent 90% of their time indoors; to say that we as consumers do not all have a stake in the future of energy codes is shortsighted at best. We will all benefit from better homes, offices, and other buildings; from lower utility bills; from higher standards of efficiency, safety, and value. Further, greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the built environment are also a major contributing factor to man-made global warming, which has already had marked effects on weather patterns on a national and international scale. From multiple perspectives, it is clear that the energy consumed by buildings is a consideration for those within and without the field of energy codes. Finding ways to disseminate established information to a larger audience will also be key in bringing all jurisdictions up to speed.