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How Tougher Energy Efficiency Standards Will Affect Facility Managers

This fall, state energy codes for new and modified buildings may get tougher. These tougher energy standards could significantly affect facility managers. Congress requires all states to adopt energy codes at least as stringent as those shown in the latest applicable ASHRAE energy code. The deadline for adoption of the 2010 version is October 2013. Come October, some states will be upgrading their building codes to reflect changes in ASHRAE 90.1, the national energy code. ASHRAE 90.1-2010, as it is known, contains many changes from the prior (2007) version that may affect both installation and operating costs for buildings in the United States.

The overall effect of those changes is significant. The goal for the 2010 standard was to save (relative to the 2004 standard) 30 percent of the energy used by a representative set of building types in various parts of the United States. The standard makers got close: Computer models comparing buildings designed under each standard showed a 28 percent savings. The goal for the 2013 version is to cut energy use by another 20 percent, relative to the 2007 standard, so that the total reduction (relative to 2004) would be 50 percent.

States have some latitude to adjust the standard so that it fits with their own energy codes. What's more, enforcement of the congressional edict on states is loose. Even if your state has adopted the 2007 version (or is expected to adopt the 2010 version), standards are not laws: They must be specifically codified in a state's energy code, some of which do so only after modifying (or eliminating) some parts of the ASHRAE standard. Some states, for example, exempt their state-owned facilities even as they require all privately owned buildings to comply; other states have limited application of their codes to only state-owned or operated buildings. As a result, facility managers should review state energy codes or consult with state building or energy code authorities before beginning the design or specification of projects with new energy-using equipment or making any changes to plans or equipment specs.

Many states adopt the ASHRAE standard by accepting the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), and updating their state energy codes to follow its most recent version, which also covers residential construction not otherwise covered by the ASHRAE standard.

Facilities in Canada are not addressed by the ASHRAE standard (there are no ASHRAE climate zones covering Canada), but that nation's environmental department (called Natural Resources Canada, or NRCan) has, in the past, accepted many aspects of ASHRAE standards for application in that nation. It should be noted, however, that Canada's provinces also have the legal latitude to adjust and interpret national rulings to fit their own provincial codes.

While the 2010 standard applies mainly to new commercial and industrial buildings, and large residential facilities (more than three stories in height), it also affects existing buildings that are replacing equipment or systems, or adding footage that includes new equipment or systems. Even systems that are related to industrial processes (if specifically mentioned in the standard) may be affected. Buildings less than 25,000 gross square feet are afforded a slightly looser leash, with some rules not applying. The same is true for some small HVAC systems, based on CFM or BTUH capacity. To take climate differences into account, ASHRAE divides the United States into 8 climate zones, with many requirements varying by zone, and some not applying. It should be noted, however, that the standard does not differentiate its requirements based on energy cost, which may vary widely across the United States. Electricity rates, for example, vary by a factor of 4 from highest to lowest cost locations.

posted on 10/4/2013

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