Author Archives: Allison Webster

The Fight for More Efficient Building Codes Comes to Atlantic City

Live updates from the Comment Hearings 10/8/2013:

The big news is that RE-166, the mechanical equipment trade-off proposal constituting a massive energy code rollback, was disapproved 76-52, overturning committee action.

The rest of the changes have been more mild:

Gains:

  • RE-63 approved, deleting footnote “h” wall bracing insulation exception, which stops its use as a loophole in cases where an exception isn’t warranted
  • RE-83 approved as modified, mandating cavities within corners and headers be filled with insulation at least R-3/in. Before they simply had to be “insulated.”
  • RE-116 overturned, avoiding a duct leakage testing rollback (by switching to leakage to outside at same rate)
  • RE-150 overturned, avoiding a change to the simple 75% high efficacy lighting prescriptive requirement to a 100% requirement with exceptions that might have led to increased energy use if abused.

Losses:

  • RE-50 approved, slightly increasing the U-factor table values for Climate Zones 1-5 (but decreasing them for CZ 6-8).
  • RE-107 approved as modified, decreasing duct insulation requirements for small ducts ( < 3″ diameter)
  • RE-132 approved as modified by public comment, deleting R-3 hot insulation requirement for hot water pipes: [1] to the kitchen; and [2] exceeding the maximum run lengths given by the table. On the bright side, 3/4″ diameter pipes will now be subject to the R-3 requirement (before it had been pipes > 3/4″).
  • RE-129 AM overturned. It would have expanded R-3 insulation requirements for hot water pipes.

Neutral:

  • RE-125 approved as modified (in its entirety), adding requirements for hot water circulation and heat trace systems and controls.
  • RE-136 approved with various modifications (in its entirety), adding requirements for demand recirculation system controls.

A battle is looming over efforts to update the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which will take place Oct 5-10 in Atlantic City at the International Code Council Public Comment Hearings.  The new IECC, recognized by federal statute as America’s model energy code, will be voted on by local and state officials from across the nation.

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Building Rating Helps Markets Understand and Value Energy Efficiency

Everyone knows that one way to judge the performance of a car is by its fuel efficiency, and car manufacturers love to crow about cars with high ‘miles per gallon’ ratings. But, what if there was a way to assess “MPG” for buildings that gave potential owners or renters a sense of how much it would cost to operate their building over time? The idea is gaining traction in cities and states around the U.S., and internationally – where a number of countries require a building’s energy rating to be prominently displayed.

Building Energy Benchmarking and Disclosure

Building energy benchmarking and disclosure policies allow access to information that enables the market to value and respond to building energy performance.

 Building energy benchmarking and disclosure policies allow access to information that enables the market to value and respond to building energy performance — helping consumers make informed choices,  similar to MPG stickers or food labels.

This year, Boston became the first city in New England, and the eighth nationwide, to enact a building energy reporting and disclosure ordinance (BERDO).  In May, the Boston City Council voted to adopt energy benchmarking for large buildings. The goal? To promote energy and carbon savings in Boston’s commercial and industrial building sector, which is responsible for almost half of the city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

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Massachusetts Third in the Region to Approve 2012 Energy Conservation Code

IECC

As of July 9, the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) voted to approve the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and ASHRAE 90.1-2010, with non-weakening amendments. The Board had previously voted for a one year concurrency period where either the 2009 or 2012 IECC can be used. Starting July 2014, 2012 IECC for residential and ASHRAE 90.1-2010 for commercial will be the mandatory statewide building energy code.

Massachusetts joins the states of Maryland (which adopted the 2012 IECC back in January of 2012), Rhode Island (adopted in July 2013) and Illinois (adopted in January 2013). Congratulations Massachusetts, for continuing to advance the state’s building energy code — a critical component for remaining at the forefront of energy efficiency!

Citing the Evidence – the Benefits of Building Energy Disclosure Policies

inconceivable

The benefits of building energy rating and disclosure far outweigh the negatives. Any opposition can almost be considered… well, you get the point…

It’s amazing how one report, when branded with one of the biggest names in academia (Harvard) and funded by a well-heeled special interest opposition group (the Greater Boston Real Estate Board), can cause so much misinformation to be spread about Boston’s new building energy disclosure ordinance. Benchmarking and disclosure policies allow access to information that enables the market to value and respond to building energy performance. It’s the same concept as nutritional labels on food and MPG labels on vehicles, recognized around the world as important consumer protection and awareness measures.

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Boston’s New Building Energy Disclosure Law Boosts Property Portfolios

On February 22, the Boston Globe published an article on Boston’s new building energy disclosure ordinance. Here is NEEP’s response, submitted as a letter to the editor:

“We, at NEEP, were delighted to see the article regarding Mayor Menino’s proposed building energy reporting ordinance [Menino takes on Boston buildings' energy use, 2.22.2013] featured on the front page of the Globe. We couldn’t agree more with the mayor’s commitment to high performance buildings and building energy disclosure as a means to tackle aggressive energy and GHG reduction goals. This law is a huge win for everyone and will make Boston’s real estate portfolio even more attractive and lucrative to investors. Continue reading

Time is Savings-Connecticut’s Building Code Conundrum

Last week, a damaging bill (HB 5749) for building energy efficiency was heard in Connecticut. The bill describes itself as attempting to “save resources” for the Nutmeg State and creates a “more consistent State Building Code,” when in fact it would accomplish neither! Here is NEEP’s written testimony against the bill.

HB 5749, if passed, would have Connecticut revise the State Building Code only every six years! NEEP strongly recommends that all states update their state building and energy codes at least every three years, corresponding with the International Code Council’s (ICC) update cycle. It’s the surest way to align a state building code with the latest developments in building technologies and practices, and achieve the energy and cost savings, not to mention life/safety requirements, the codes are designed for.

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Mass. Pilot on Commercial Building Asset Rating Yields Exciting Findings

Two public buildings participated in Phase 1 of the BAR pilot – Cambridge City Hall Annex (left)  and the McCormack State Office Building, in downtown Boston (right).

BAR pilot participant – Cambridge City Hall Annex

Determining a commercial building’s asset rating (see sidebar) is a time-consuming process involving multiple site visits, meticulous data collection, engineers and energy modeling, and can cost anywhere from $15-30,000 per building! All of this begs the question: Is there a faster, cheaper, more effective way of evaluating a building’s energy performance? Continue reading

With Tools in Hand – Mainers Fight for Safe, Affordable & Comfortable Buildings

Buildings are our nation’s biggest energy guzzlers, using 40% of our energy and 70% of our electricity.

As the nation makes strides to improve the energy performance of its building stock, one effective method of doing this is with building energy codes. Building energy codes play a central role in creating a sustainable energy future by significantly reducing building energy use and ensuring safe and affordable dwellings for its businesses and citizens.

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Up to $240K Available: “Consulting Services for Raising the BAR (Building Asset Rating)”

NEEP, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), is seeking proposals for innovative methodologies that can help reduce the time and cost of data collection.

Operational ratings for buildings, which are based on actual energy use (i.e. energy billing data), are great, but don’t paint the full picture of a building’s true energy performance. To help connect the dots, asset ratings evaluate the energy performance of a building based on the thermal envelope (e.g. insulation, windows) and mechanical and electrical systems, irrespective of tenant behavior. Asset ratings are designed to facilitate direct comparisons of energy performance among similar buildings, and in turn educate stakeholders and enable the real estate market to value energy performance, thereby increasing investments in energy efficiency. Continue reading

Zero Net Energy Buildings – A Pathway to Energy Independence and Disaster Preparedness

Over the past six months, the Northeast has been hammered with unexpected and extreme weather.  Tornadoes tore through Western Massachusetts in June and Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc throughout the entire region in August, devastating Vermont with the worst flooding they’ve seen in 84 years.  We also felt the strongest earthquake to rattle the region since World War II, and last month’s October snowstorm left a reported three million on the East Coast without power.  The image below of Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P)’s power outage map, taken on the morning of October 30, begins to illustrate the stark and extensive aftereffects of these storms. During the peak of the outage 830,000 customers were left in the dark: no lights, no heat, no water…and in some towns for as long as 10 days. These events force communities and government to seriously grapple with, and possibly rethink, emergency preparedness plans. Continue reading