Building Operating Management

What You Need To Know About The ASHRAE 90.1 Standard Process

The ASHRAE 90.1 Standard Process

In the late '80s, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) accepted ASHRAE as the standard writer for building systems that consume energy, and pushed to have its standards adopted into law by all the states. Developed in cooperation with the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), the ASHRAE standard incorporates requirements for lighting devices that use energy. ASHRAE has been issuing energy standards since 1989 and, in 2001, began doing so every 3 years. Even as the 2010 version takes effect this year, ASHRAE is already working on the 2013 version of standard 90.1.

Through a lengthy process that involves many parties (including engineers, governmental officials, equipment manufacturers, and other groups), ASHRAE develops its rules, seeking general acceptance through wide representation on its committees. The overall goal is to keep raising the bar as energy systems and equipment continue to improve, capturing significant cost savings and emissions reductions for building owners, operators, and occupants. As many facility managers would likely attest, it's an ongoing struggle to keep up with off-the-shelf energy efficiency technologies, even as those shelves fill up with new options. Following the ASHRAE standard is a great way to specify the most efficient and (on average) cost-effective energy equipment and systems.

— Lindsay Audin

Help Is Available

While even opening the 660-page standard may sound like a daunting experience, ASHRAE provides several ways to help facility managers and their staff attain compliance. A good starting point is the series of free Advanced Energy Design Guides (AEDG) available from ASHRAE at Whether it's lighting, HVAC, water, or other aspects of building energy systems, the Guides offer a range of ways to design more energy efficient buildings.

If your in-house engineering people are unsure about how to make changes to a design that was based on the 2007 code version, a quick way to identify exactly how a section has changed in the 2010 standard is to examine the red-lined version, available at At that same site, ASHRAE offers various training courses in its standards and how to work with them.

Your state's energy office may also be able to provide guidance, especially regarding if and how your state has codified the 2010 version as state law. It may also offer free or low-cost training in understanding and complying with its state energy code. To find your state energy office's web site, go to and click on your state.

— Lindsay Audin


Commercial Building Energy Codes: Status Report Map  Click for larger PDF

States are required to have energy codes at least as stringent as those in ASHRAE 90.1-2010 by the end of October 2013. This map shows which state codes are in compliance with the prior requirement that they be at least as tough as ASHRAE 90.1-2007. Some states are years behind, complying instead with the 2001 or 2004 versions of the ASHRAE standard. A handful of states have no statewide energy codes, despite the federal law. Some states such as California (whose new energy code takes effect in 2014), however, already have energy codes set to be as tough as or tougher than the 2010 version. To find details on any state's energy code, go to and click on "Status of State Energy Codes" at the right of that page. Uncle Sam's own facilities (when built or modified) must comply with the 2010 version, starting in September 2013. To see projected status of energy code adoptions, go to and click on the tab for Commercial: Projected.

— Lindsay Audin

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  posted on 10/4/2013   Article Use Policy