Building Energy Code Advancement through Utility Support and Engagement

Research Report A126


Harry Misuriello, Sameer Kwatra, Martin Kushler, Seth Nowak


There are several developments coming together in the last few years that make a strong case for the involvement of utilities in advancing adoption, implementation and compliance verification of building energy codes. First, every state that received funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, committed to adopting national model codes  along with agreeing to implement a plan to reach at least 90% compliance by 2017. The model codes referred here are 2009 IECC for residential buildings and Standard 90.1-2007 for commercial buildings as specified in ARRA requirements. Some states adopted these codes without any amendments and some chose to customize it. Second, many states have also established energy efficiency resource standards (EERS), which provide a clear and tangible energy efficiency target to utilities and other stakeholders. And third, recent advances in building energy codes have made the latest versions much more efficient than even the ones that came out six to eight years ago. Hence the potential for energy savings from increasing compliance to building energy codes is tremendous.

We highlight one recent energy code compliance study in New York for residential and commercial properties that quantifies the potential.  Given assumptions on the annual construction volumes and useful life of buildings, the researchers estimated lost energy code savings at $300 million in the residential sector and $960 million in the commercial sector, for a total of $1.3 billion in cumulative lost savings over a 5-year construction cycle. Clearly, lost benefits of this magnitude are a legitimate public policy concern.

At the same time, there are several barriers and regulatory challenges that have to be overcome in order to mainstream building energy codes into utility programs. Chief amongst these is the question of quantification of a) compliance to the provisions of the energy codes and b) measurement of savings from this compliance. This report discusses a way around some of the barriers and devotes a considerable thought to possible solutions for Evaluation, Measurement and Verification of savings from energy code compliance. The report also summarizes related activity across different states of the country. Based on best practices in the leading states we identify appropriate activities for utilities in the energy code cycle and conclude by suggesting pilot program concepts for utilities that are interested in pursuing these further.