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Will Outcome Based Compliance Be The New Normal For Energy Codes?


Outcome-based compliance is an idea whose time is rapidly approaching. As you may remember, last November the International Code Council membership voted to allow an alternate outcome-based compliance path to the 2015 iteration of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).

That may sound like a bunch of boring code-speak, but it's a really big deal. Here's why: Many in the industry strongly believe that outcome-based codes are the best way we've developed so far to connect design intent with efficiency in operations. That's because with the outcome-based compliance method, a building is judged on its actual energy use, instead of its modeled use. And because it's now a part of the IgCC, facility managers in areas that adopt this version of the code will have an outcome-based compliance option.

Of course, many challenges remain to making outcome-based compliance the norm. A recent paper published by the New Buildings Institute (NBI) and the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) titled "Getting To Outcome-Based Compliance" reports on a summit held last August and attended by many key players in the industry. The report outlines three barriers to widespread adoption of outcome-based compliance.

The first and toughest barrier is resistance and pushback to creating accountability that lasts into the operational phase of project. The reason this is a barrier is that it represents a sea change to the business-as-usual way buildings are designed and handed over now. As well, code officials aren't used (and frankly, don't know how) to measure buildings on performance rather than just signing off on the energy model provided by an engineer that predicts a building's energy performance.

NBI and NIBS are the two organizations leading the charge to educate the industry about how this barrier can be overcome — that the overall benefits of widespread adoption of outcome-based compliance far outweigh the potential growing pains of change.

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