Published on March 25th, 2014 | by John Farrell


Better Building Codes Save Bundles (Chart)

March 25th, 2014 by  

How much money could you and your neighbors save on energy?

That depends a lot on the building code, which states (and sometimes cities) can use to set minimum standards for energy efficiency.  The U.S. Department of Energy has a nice chart of which state has adopted which code, but the following chart is useful in understanding what that means from the standpoint of relative energy efficiency and energy savings.  A third of states could save new homeowners anywhere from $150 to $1100 per year in energy costs by upgrading or implementing the most recent International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

relative energy efficiency of building codes.001

In many cases, cities have the authority to set more ambitious codes than the state, a great way to use local authority to save residents and businesses money! However, state authority varies widely. The following map illustrates which states allow local governments to set their own building energy codes:

local building code authority state map 2013

It’s not just the code, but how it’s implemented that matters. In September 2013, environmental groups and home builders associations reached a historic agreement on building codes, focusing on improving efficiency through a performance based measure (the Home Energy Rating System) instead of the prescriptive IECC codes. The upshot could be a 20% improvement over the 2012 IECC code within two years by allowing builders to find their own strategies to meet the targets.

Could your city start saving big on energy dollars? Check out the charts, and for more information on energy efficiency and other strategies for boosting the economy with local energy investments, see ILSR’s recent report, City Power Play.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (, and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at

  • Offgridmanpolktn

    From having lived in the north east and different states up and down the east coast am familiar with state standards and some of the special codes enacted by big urban areas. But this makes no mention of how I find the situation to be in the rural southeast in several states, where minimums are established by state code, and and specifics, monitoring and enforcement being done by the counties. It would be wonderful for my neighbors and the countries and world’s overall energy savings to get stricter coding passed. But this involves fighting the incumbent political interests. Also trying to explain to local inspectors that what was being done when building and improving my own home (from my own experience as a building facilities engineer) was actually much better and safer than what they were used to seeing was a major pain, that involved extensive documentation and special variances.
    It is all well and good to try changing current policies, but no where near as easy as this article tries to make out. It would have been nice to have some suggestions on how to go about encouraging some of these ideas.

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