Step 1: Project Initiation

1a. Owner identifies a need to modify building.

  • Equipment failure
  • End of life replacement
  • Renovation (new acquisition, change in tenancy, updating)
  • Energy efficiency upgrade
Who is involved?
  • Owner: Looks at potential projects and budgets
  • Architect: Usually not involved
  • Engineer: Usually not involved
  • Contractor: Usually not involved
  • Code Official: Usually not involved
What could be improved?

Gap: There are breaks in communication throughout the design and construction of existing building projects, and the most qualified stakeholders are not always involved at the appropriate times.

Opportunities: A reorganization of the design and construction process would facilitate interaction between the appropriate stakeholders at the appropriate stages of the process. Owners are in a position to demand this type of reorganization.

1b. Owner procures services of a design professional and sometimes a contractor.

  • RFP/Bid selection
  • Contract for design services
  • Purchase order
Who is involved?
  • Owner: Interacts with architect or the owner’s design team to configure scope of work and approves the project
  • Architect: Defines project program, analyzes code and in some cases sets energy goals; interacts with the owner, design team, and consultants
  • Engineer: Acts as a subcontractor to the architect(s); provides code reports (rare cases), outlines project requirements, does preliminary energy modeling and space planning
  • Contractor: Conducts feasibility studies and ball park estimates for work to perform; does building walkthroughs and interacts with the owner and architect(s)
  • Code Official: Usually not involved yet
What could be improved?

Gap: There are breaks in communication throughout the design and construction of existing building projects, and the most qualified stakeholders are not always involved at the appropriate times.

Opportunities: Architects should coordinate with engineers earlier in the design process to analyze the energy impact of specific design decisions. Engineers can best explain the impact of certain building systems and should be included more frequently in design meetings with owners.

Contractors need more insight on the energy code decisions that are made to help them be more informed when interacting with inspectors and other enforcement officials. Their on-site activities expose them to existing conditions that could inform design decisions. Earlier interaction with enforcement officials and contractors can help to identify potential code issues in the design process.

Step 2: Design Development

a. Designer prepares project design.

  • Project plans
  • Design calculations as necessary
Who is involved?
  • Owner: Tracks the budget and interacts with architect and contractors
  • Architect: Develops schematic designs that make decisions about cost, scale, etc.
  • Engineer: Assists architect with the basis of the design document, construction/contract requirements, modeling, space requirements, cost estimates, and code requirements
  • Contractor: Involves estimations, value engineering, and life cycle costs through some interaction with the owners, architects, engineers, and consultants
  • Code Official: Usually not involved
What could be improved?

Gap: The building energy code is not implemented as effectively as possible because it is not considered early enough in the design process

Opportunities: Energy code analysis can be conducted earlier in the design process by architects and engineers. Utilizing tools like energy models, building information modeling (BIM), and COMcheck in the early design phases can help architects and engineers incorporate energy saving strategies and reduce costs when making adjustments throughout the process. These tools can also help owners to better understand the potential savings impact of energy-conscious design.

Engaging enforcement officials during the design process can give the design team a greater understanding of the potential energy code requirements that may need to be considered.


Is the project exempt from the energy code?
Energy code is not applicable.

Permitting requirements explained

Does the project require a building permit?





Is the project exempt from the energy code?
Energy code is not applicable, but other requirements may apply.


Please continue to Step 3.

Step 3: Permitting

Who is involved?
  • Owner: Usually not involved
  • Architect: Puts together some documents for permitting as needed; in some cases explains code to clients; interacts with contractor and sometimes code official for permitting purposes
  • Engineer: Usually not involved
  • Contractor: Responsible for construction permits; interacts with code officials
  • Code Official: Reviews building plans, fire suppression, mechanical systems, and other code provisions specific to building plans; has some interaction with architects and/or engineers and consultants; energy codes are reviewed by engineer or building official; must be ICC and state-certified
What could be improved?

Gap: The permit information available for existing buildings is inconsistent because different building departments use different systems to store documentation. This leads to inefficiencies and redundancy, particularly in existing building projects.

Opportunities: A state mandate calling for a building permit system to be used across jurisdictions would help local building departments and allow industry professionals to better utilize the vast amount of available information.

An improved documentation system would help local building departments to work more efficiently. It would also provide the design and construction communities with the information needed to apply the energy code more effectively in existing buildings. One example of a successful implementation of this kind of technology was in Gillette, WY. By instituting a comprehensive internet-based software solution for plan review, they were able to improve efficiency dramatically.


The permitting process explained

Design professional or owner representative prepares permit application and plans to submit to municipality.

Municipal building department receives permit application, which includes COMcheck


Design professional makes corrections

Is the application and submittal package complete?

→   →



Municipal building department (and/or designated third part agency) conducts plan review.

Design professional makes corrections

Is application and submittal package complete?

→   →



Municipality approves plans, calculates inspection fees, and issues building permit.

Step 4: Construction

Construction begins and design professional (or contractor) requests information

Who is involved?
  • Owner: Usually not involved directly unless they have an in-house construction management company, but does interact with architects, contractors, vendors, and consultants to stay abreast of the project’s progress
  • Architect: Construction administration, reviews submittals, work progress and site walkthroughs, RFIs, change orders, review and request for payment, etc; sometimes does mock-up model and keeps track of energy model; interacts with client, contractors, and consultants
  • Engineer: Interacts with the architects and contractors, performing site walkthroughs, seminar reviews, and some commissioning
  • Contractor: Performs construction as specified by drawings; has frequent interactions with architects, consultants, and engineers
  • Code Official: Reviews COMcheck, construction checklist, and energy conservation provisions; interacts with contractors and construction managers
What could be improved?

Gaps: Energy code issues are neglected because they are not directly aligned with stakeholder incentives.

Opportunities:Outreach and educational material from advocacy groups can educate owners and commercial tenants on the implications of noncompliance with the energy code and encourage them to demand compliance from the building industry professionals that they work with.

Owners are understandably focused on the financial factors in a modification project, factors that are often dictated by the demands of their tenants. In order to meet the demands of their clients, design professionals are also motivated to place a good deal of emphasis on the issues that have direct implications on the cost of a project. If energy efficiency is not a client’s primary concern when performing a modification, this can lead a lack of focus on energy code issues. Gaps in existing building energy code enforcement can perpetuate negligence of code requirements because of the perceived lack of consequences for noncompliance.

Step 5: Inspections

Who is involved?
  • Owner: Conducts surveys and keeps track of building performance
  • Architect: Interacts with the owner to a lesser degree; conducts final punch listing and inspections
  • Engineer: Usually not involved
  • Contractor: Interacts with the owner and sometimes trains the owner’s staff to operate the building; does some final punch listings
  • Code Official: Does energy and visual inspection; ensures compliance and issues certificate of occupancy accordingly (or temporary occupancy if building is not completely finished); interacts with contractors and site managers; does inspections until project meets all necessary code provisions
What could be improved?

Gap: Processes in a modification/renovation project are often very complex, but stakeholders typically approach energy code application in existing building modifications with the same process that they use for new construction projects.

Opportunities: Altering the language in the IECC would help to address existing buildings more thoroughly and better reflect the issues faced in the renovation process.

Two separate proposals were made to the 2015 IECC with the goal of:

  1. Clarifying the requirements for additions, alterations, renovations, and repairs, and;
  2. Creating a separate section for existing buildings that can be expanded in the future.

The inspection process explained

Inspection by code official or third party agency

Contractor corrects deficiencies;
design professional (or contractor) requests re-inspection.

Construction begins; design professional (or contractor) requests inspection




Does work pass inspection?



(intermediate inspection)


(final inspection)

Code official issues certificate of occupancy; building enters service