Where energy efficiency meets prosperity
Energy and green construction codes are gaining more prominence across the nation and around the world as the building industry rapidly moves in the direction of sustainable, resilient and energy-efficient high-performance buildings. A thoughtful, whole building design approach can serve as a straightforward and effective framework for architects and designers, developers and even the community at large in crafting sustainability initiatives that drive more resilient development and help cities achieve economic prosperity.
The 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), or ASHRAE Standard 90.1, addresses the entire building system — from performance, cost effectiveness, functionality and productivity to safety and security, aesthetics, and sustainability and resiliency — providing an all-inclusive resource that addresses the convergence of design, sustainability and performance.
What is the energy code?
The IECC, published by the International Code Council and updated every three years, addresses the design of energy-efficient building envelopes and the installation of energy-efficient mechanical, lighting and power systems through requirements emphasizing performance. It is part of the suite of International Codes, and is in use across the United States, member nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. It is also the basis for state-specific codes such as the Washington State Energy Code.
Financial case for building to the 2018 IECC
The IECC results in both immediate and long-term benefits to the building owners and tenants: reduced operating costs (energy savings), improved durability, and resiliency. The IECC also contributes to improved employee performance, which translates into value for the business owner.
Energy use is the single largest operating expense in commercial office buildings, representing approximately one-third of typical operating budgets. Building to the 2018 IECC provides owners and operators with significant reduction in utilities costs associated with lighting, heating, and cooling. The IECC does not only provide benefits in new construction, it also applies to retrofits — and owners and operators realize immediate benefits of up-to-date systems and commissioning.
Reduced operating costs. Buildings constructed to the 2018 1ECC use over 30-percent less energy than those constructed to the 2006 IECC. In any utility market, 30 percent is significant, but how is this made meaningful to property owners not bound by the 2018 IECC?
Studies have shown both commercial and residential tenants and owners value and expect efficient buildings. A recent report by the Institute of Real Estate management and the Institute of Market Transformation shows that approximately 80 percent of survey participants stated that energy management was either “very important” or “important” to their company’s business.1
Making the case
Take, for example, a 200,000-square-foot office building. Built to the 2012 IECC, it may have an energy cost index of greater than $2 per square foot, whereas designing and constructing to the contemporary 2018 IECC could result in a five-percent reduction in energy consumption that would translate into an additional $20,000 of NOI. At a cap rate of eight percent, this could mean a potential asset value boost of $250,000.
Energy savings on a broader scale are significant. To date, the energy code has saved U.S. consumers over $44 billion and avoided 36 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Between 2010 and 2040, the U.S. Department of Energy expects that model building energy codes will save homeowners and businesses up to $126 billion in energy costs. To realize these benefits, up-to-date codes must be applied.
Life Safety, Durability and Resiliency: A recent article by Christine Brinker illustrates the health and safety contributions of the IECC.2 Building science informs the IECC, controlling heat, air and moisture in buildings. It controls condensation that could otherwise turn to rot, mold and mildew, harming both the structure itself and the health of the inhabitants. Air management protects the safety of the air occupants breathe, and keeps out pollutants and radon from the ground.
Building to the IECC also results in the venting out of harmful indoor pollutants and protects occupants from carbon monoxide from gas-fueled appliances. In addition, the IECC’s requirements for tight construction and air sealing helps prevent fire and smoke spread. The requirements of the IECC help maintain livable temperatures for longer, so that in cases of extreme weather, occupants can “shelter in place”. A study after Superstorm Sandy, which left eight million people without power, showed that new energy codes allowed residents to stay in their homes for more days during blackouts triggered by heat waves or cold freezes.3
Tenant Health, Comfort and Productivity. In addition to reduced operating costs, the IECC provisions for natural daylighting support the well-known human preference for natural light, and several studies have demonstrated improved productivity associated with natural light and views.4 A 15-percent increase in time on-task for an employee with a salary and benefits worth $150,000 offers a potential benefit to the employer of $22,500. In other business sectors, studies have also shown that daylighting improves retail sales.5
Ventilation provisions of the IECC, including demand control ventilation, air sealing and commissioning, all support improved air quality and thermal comfort. A study that evaluated the impacts of indoor air quality and work performance, “Sick Building Syndrome” symptoms, employee absence, and thermal comfort of office workers showed the combined potential annual economic benefit of a set of non-overlapping scenarios is approximately $20 billion.6
Knowledge is power
The IECC addresses the entire building system: envelope, mechanical and service water heating and lighting. Each designer and contractor associated with that system benefits from knowledge of this and other codes. Working with a project team that has the knowledge and interest in applying the provisions of the 2018 IECC helps ensure your project reaps the benefits. Training and education is available from a wide variety of sources. The Code Council offers online and locally-delivered training and free technical support to our members. The U.S. Department of Energy has an extensive library of free educational resources, and you can download COMCheck, a plug and play, menu-driven compliance tool. Additionally, major industry groups ranging from the American Institute of Architects to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning providers, offer industry-specific support.
The IECC development process
The IECC is developed through an open governmental consensus process by experts in building science and users of the code — officials, engineers, architects and others — who help improve the IECC and improve on energy efficiency, safety of the occupants, and durability of the structure. After 20 years of contributions to energy savings and life safety, the IECC continues to evolve to incorporate the latest technologies. The next cycle of the code development process, to include proposals for the 2021 IECC, began in September 2018. Proposed code changes to the IECC were due through the Code Council’s online portal cdpACCESS by Jan. 14, 2019.
3 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy — “Leaks and Lives: How Better Building Envelopes Make Blackouts Less Dangerous”
4 HeschongMahone Group, Windows and Offices: A Study of Office Worker Performance and the Indoor Environment, Public Interest Energy Research, Calfornia Energy Commission, 2003. Carnegie Mellon Daylighting Study, 2004
5 HeschongMahone Group, Daylight and Retail Sales, Public Interest Energy Research, California Energy Commission, 2003
6 Fisk, W., Black, D., & Brunner, G. (201 1). Benefits and costs of improved lEO in U.S. offices.