ICC Votes On Energy Code Compliance For IgCC

By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: New Energy Code Approach Could Be Industry Game-ChangerPt. 2: Outcome-Based Energy Codes Link Operations To Design Pt. 3: How Would Outcome-Based Energy Codes Be Enforced? Pt. 4: With Outcome-Based Codes, Who Is Responsible For Performance During Measurement Period?Pt. 5: This Page

(Ed. update 11/20/14: The proposal has been approved and will be added to the 2015 version of IgCC.)


In May, the proposal (GEW 147-14) to incorporate an outcome-based compliance path into the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) passed the International Code Council's committee by a vote of 8-5. This was a significant hurdle to clear for the proposal, which now goes to the membership at large for a vote in mid-October, needing a simple majority of "yeas" to be incorporated into the 2015 version of the IgCC.

GEW 147-14 provides a framework for how to implement outcome-based compliance in individual jurisdictions. It provides suggested Energy Use Intensity (EUI) targets based on ASHRAE's climate zones and on energy data from the 2003 version of the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey database. (The latter provides the most current data, though the 2012 survey data is being compiled and should be available soon.) But jurisdictions can modify those targets as they see fit. Jurisdictions always have the option to adopt EUI numbers they're comfortable with, says Ron Burton, a codes and standards advocacy consultant with PTW Advisors, and a former vice president, codes, standards, and regulatory affairs with BOMA.

The proposal also specifies that buildings must collect 12 continuous months of data some time within the first 36 months of occupancy. If they comply, a final Certificate of Occupancy, to replace a temporary one, can then be issued. If not, recourse is left up to the individual jurisdictions, says Jim Edelson, director of codes and policies for the New Buildings Institute. "Enforcement is left up to code officials," he says. "The city or jurisdiction adopting the ordinances can talk about what is done if there's a violation."

The proposal's flexibility is an important issue to keep in mind: Even if the proposal passes and is incorporated into IgCC, and most experts say it's likely it will, given that it passed committee, it still can be modified to meet individual jurisdictions' needs to smooth implementation. The important thing is that the outcome-based compliance path is there as an option to be used, says Edelson.

— Greg Zimmerman


Outcome-Based Compliance Could Eventually Be Applied To Existing Buildings

As more and more jurisdictions — 13 at press time, comprising 10 cities, two states, and one county — are implementing energy benchmarking and disclosure ordinances, one question has arisen around the discussion of outcome-based codes: Could an outcome-based compliance method work at reducing energy use long term for existing buildings? It seems like a natural fit — if buildings are already collecting energy data, and are required to disclose that data, could a progressive jurisdiction require an ongoing target for energy performance?

Most experts agree that such an idea is far off in the future, as the outcome-based compliance method for new construction is just now becoming a possibility. But benchmarking and disclosure laws are a step in that direction.

"Benchmarking makes performance of buildings transparent so that high-performance buildings can be rewarded in the marketplace," says Cliff Majersik, executive director, Institute for Market Transformation. "That's a similar impact to what we're hoping for with outcome-based compliance. Benchmarking laws give us insight into our buildings we've never had before."

This means benchmarking and disclosure laws are valuable in jurisdictions where an outcome-based compliance option is being considered, for the simple reason that it means more data is available on the energy use of buildings in that jurisdiction. As a result, the jurisdiction can set reasonable targets based on current energy data for its own buildings.

The GEW 147-14 only includes targets for the types of buildings included in the CBECS database, so when jurisdictions collect more data on different types of buildings, that could help also with wider implementation of outcome-based codes in new construction.

— Greg Zimmerman

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