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Buildings

Building Industry Framework Will Tackle Consumer Demands To “Go Green!”

How can the building industry meet energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction goals?

According to a survey of home buyers by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), energy efficiency tops the list of consumer preferences. In summer 2020, 3,000 home buyers, both recent and prospective, described the types of features they want to have in their homes, including eco-friendly components and designs. When provided the option by the building industry, the majority of buyers prefer to go green. They hope to incorporate passive solar design (60%) and durable materials (66%) into their homes. Buyers are also willing to invest in features that help lower their utility bills, with the average buyer willing to pay as much as $9,292 more upfront for a home to save $1,000 annually on utility costs.

To green a building is to increase the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use energy, water, and materials and of reducing impacts on human health and the environment for the entire lifecycle of a building.

The International Code Council (Code Council) has released a new pathway to meet the vision of these consumers. The Code Council board of directors — 18 government code officials who were elected by their peers — have released a framework called “Leading the Way to Energy Efficiency: A Path Forward on Energy and Sustainability to Confront a Changing Climate.” The Code Council will build on the technical solutions provided by the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), International Residential Code (IRC), and International Green Construction Code (IgCC) to create a portfolio of advanced mitigation solutions to battle the impacts of our changing climate.

Over the past year, the Code Council collected and assessed feedback from members and the public to create a portfolio of advanced mitigation solutions for the building industry to battle the impacts of the changing climate. This portfolio will provide a menu of options for jurisdictions, from a scaffolded set of minimum requirements to pathways to net zero energy and additional greenhouse gas reduction policies. Nine interest categories outlined in the consensus procedures are manufacturer, builder, standards promulgator, testing laboratory, user, utility, consumer, public segment, government regulator, and insurance.

The development process for the IECC will use the Code Council’s standards development procedures in order to allow for more in-depth scientific and economic deliberations, quicker progress to meeting public and private sector goals, and the development of a broader consensus that will support wider application and adoption. With the base 2021 IECC efficiency requirements just 10% away from net zero for residential buildings, under the new framework future editions of the IECC will increase base efficiency. To do so, they’ll used a balancing test proposed in bipartisan legislation that has cleared the US House and Senate and has been supported by energy efficiency advocates and the building industry.

The Code Council board of directors under Council Policy 28 and the Consensus Procedures has sole authority to establish and revise the title, scope, and intent of codes and standards developed by the Code Council. The portfolio of resources is intended to include a variety of energy efficiency and GHG reduction solutions. Many of these solutions would require the use of on-site renewable generation and energy storage:

  • International Energy Conservation Code (minimum requirements)
  • International Green Construction Code, powered by ASHRAE 189.1 (green code, stretch code)
  • Electric vehicle resource for all building types
  • Electrification and decarbonization resource for all construction elements
  • Zero energy and zero carbon resource for all construction elements
  • Embodied carbon resource for all construction elements
  • Grid interactivity/efficiency resource
  • Performance standards for existing buildings
  • Enhancing energy savings through water efficiency and reuse resource
  • Integration of on-site renewable energy generation and energy storage to realize greenhouse gas reduction and resilience goals

Building Industry Codes Fast Forward to 2024

The planning for the 2024 IECC  is already underway. The process starts with the content of the 2021 IECC, building on prior successes including an increase of efficiency requirements by about 40%, or an average of 8% a cycle from 2006 to 2021. The scope and intent of the 2024 IECC and editions moving forward will be updated to reflect the following commitments:

  • The IECC will continue to be updated on a three-year cycle and each edition will increase efficiency over the prior edition
  • The code will include pathways leading to the achievement of zero energy buildings presently and by 2030
  • The code may include non-mandatory appendices incorporating energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction resources including for electric vehicle charging, electrification, and embodied carbon
  • The code’s minimum efficiency requirements will be strengthened each edition based on a balancing test supported by energy efficiency advocates and the building industry and passed by both the U.S. House and Senate
  • The development committees will be informed by insight from a newly established Energy and Carbon Advisory Council made up of public and private sector leaders.
  • Governments continue to have the ultimate say on whether to adopt or amend model codes.

In addition to updates to the IECC, the Code Council will launch a suite of resources that provide communities with a menu of technical and policy resources, which integrate with the International Codes, to address their energy efficiency and GHG reduction goals. Many of these solutions would require the use of on-site renewable generation and energy storage. Specific solutions could address:

  • Electric vehicle charging for all building types
  • Electrification and decarbonization
  • Zero energy and zero carbon
  • Embodied carbon
  • Grid interactivity/efficiency
  • Performance standards for existing buildings
  • Enhancing energy savings through water efficiency and reuse resource
  • Integration of on-site renewable energy generation and energy storage to realize greenhouse gas reduction and
    resilience goals

It’s already been determined that typical building retrofits reduce energy use by 10–25%, but deep retrofits save at least 30% and sometimes more than 50%.

The Code Council has also announced the establishment of an Energy and Carbon Advisory Council which will consist of governmental and industry leaders to inform the Code Council’s efforts. Energy codes developed under the standards process are widely adopted and used across the US.

Aside: Earlier this month the Code Council announced that it would effectively limit the input of states and cities in the development of new building codes that can help cut energy use and emissions.

Image retrieved from NASA (public domain)

 
 
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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. She's won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. As part of her portfolio divestment, she purchased 5 shares of Tesla stock. Please follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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