Bridget Herring says efficiency advancement will be key goal for residential energy code committee
Continued advancement in energy efficiency is one of the most important things that Bridget Herring, vice chair of the Residential Energy Code Consensus Committee, would like to see emerge from the consensus process for the 2024 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). “A primary goal of our code is to keep marching forward in a way that allows builders to achieve a balance between initial costs and benefits,” said Herring, the energy program coordinator for the city of Asheville’s Office of Sustainability in North Carolina. “I’m hoping that the committee provides members with a forum for genuine conversation that encourages a willingness to find consensus.”
Herring, who served on the 2021 Residential International Energy Conservation Code Development Committee, noted that there will be some differences in the committee structure for the 2024 code, namely a larger overall number of committee members, including government regulators. “It’s going to be interesting to see what the consensus is at the end of the day,” Herring acknowledged. “It’s a new dynamic and there is the potential for a shift in how decisions are made.”
Since joining the city of Asheville as energy program coordinator in 2017, Herring has focused on developing and implementing programs that are designed to help the city reach its goal of 100-percent reliance on renewable energy by the end of 2030. She oversees a wide array of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including replacing traditional incandescent streetlights with lower-energy LEDs, improving building weatherization, establishing energy benchmarks and emplacing infrastructure to support alternative fuel vehicles.
The state of North Carolina has had an energy conservation code since 2006, all based on the IECC and supplements. When it comes to implementation, she describes the effort to balance costs to the construction industry with the benefits to residents and the environment as a constant ebb and flow. “I think that as a society we have a hard time taking a long-term view, and we have that same challenge with how we think about our buildings as well,” she explained. “We’re always trying to balance the long-term nature of buildings with constant technological innovations.”
Because buildings are among the primary producers of emissions that can negatively impact the environment, Herring believes that codes are among the most powerful tools at our disposal for effectively mitigating those impacts. “As demand grows for alternative energy options like the ability to produce electricity onsite through the use of renewables, or the ability to charge electric vehicles at home or at work, we’re increasing the demand on our buildings in ways that codes have not been historically designed for,” Herring observed. “Our first line of defense in mitigating and adapting to climate change is through greater energy efficiency, and one way to accomplish that is through the codes.”
The widespread power outages in Texas this past winter that at their peak left an estimated 4.5 million people without power — triggered by record low temperatures and a back-to-back string of severe storms — are an extreme example of the need for resilient buildings, Herring believes. “The situation in Texas is a really great example of how vulnerable we are when all we have is our buildings to rely on.”
Herring’s experience with energy efficiency policies and programs goes beyond her time with the city of Asheville. For six years prior, she was an associate with Asheville-based Mathis Consulting Company, where she drew on cutting-edge building science, the latest sustainable building practices and model codes to help clients develop strategies for improving their energy code compliance and building efficiency. At Mathis, she helped draft energy efficiency and sustainability language for the International Codes as well as for ASHRAE, ASTM International, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) standards, and even contributed to Massachusetts’ energy code as well. In August, Herring was elected the first female chair of the North Carolina Building Code Council.
Herring also preaches what she practices, having presented at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings and frequently testifying about energy efficiency policies at countless conferences and legislative meetings across the state and country. She is also a regular presence on the boards of sustainability organizations and is currently a member of North Carolina’s Clean Energy Fund and Building Code Council boards.
All of this experience has helped Herring refine her big-picture perspective on the role of energy conservation. “We spend the majority of our time in the built environment, and I think the energy conservation code offers us an opportunity to focus our attention on the quality of the indoor environment,” Herring said. “This is especially relevant now, I think, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. When we think about our buildings as a whole and the resources that they take to operate, I think we are beginning to more fully understand the ways that our energy codes can help us better manage our environmental impact and, in so doing, sustain our economic security.”
“In my experience working with local governments, we all recognize that we’re in this together and none of us individually is going to be able to accomplish all of these objectives,” Herring said. “That’s why I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with the other members of this very diverse committee, many of whom I might not have had an opportunity to work with otherwise, to make the 2024 IECC the best code we can and to make sure we’re continuing to move it in the right direction for the future.”