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Changes to National Model Energy Codes Could Help Buildings Save Energy Costs

June 19, 2009

New Buildings Institute (NBI) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) are proposing comprehensive changes to a national model energy code for new commercial buildings, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The proposed high-efficiency energy code is based on NBI’s Core Performance protocol and would create buildings that are 20 to 25 percent more energy efficient than what the current average standards require.

“In co-authoring this proposal, it was our intention to make sure that the new energy codes would be stringent enough to advance our stated goal of achieving carbon neutrality in buildings by 2030,” says Christine McEntee, executive vice president and chief executive officer at AIA. “We feel it is important for the private sector to take a leadership position on this important issue that relates to the built environment.”

Buildings, which consume about two-thirds of the U.S. power supply, account for 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. However, a variety of commercial buildings in many different climates have already surpassed the proposed high efficiency energy code.

“We’re already seeing market shifts toward more energy-efficient high performance buildings among the design community and forward-thinking owners,” says Dave Hewitt, executive director at NBI. “These market leaders are benefitting from lower energy costs and higher-value buildings.”

The high efficiency energy code proposal contains specific measures and strategies allowing designers and builders to use widely available equipment and products. Such measures include the incorporation of insulation used in utility programs or recent national model codes; the specification of windows and doors with good insulation value; improved design of air distribution systems and increased efficiency levels in heating and cooling equipment; the use of high-efficiency lighting fixtures, ballasts, and bulbs; and the use of lighting controls such as occupancy and daylight sensors.

The proposal also specifies testing or commissioning processes to assure the buildings save energy as they were designed to and offers options for using renewable power to meet part of the energy savings objective.

“These high performance building strategies are completely within the realm of what’s doable today,” says Hewitt. “The new code is needed to help motivate commercial building professionals to apply them to the next project.”

The AIA and NBI submitted their proposal to the International Code Council (ICC) June 1 for consideration in the current code development process. The ICC creates energy codes that are part of the overall model codes for buildings every three years with the next update to be release in 2012.

For more information, visit www.aia.org/walkthewalk or www.newbuildings.org.

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