Tag Archives: Building Energy Codes

Daybreak on Zero Net Energy Buildings: NEEP Workshop Sparks Dialogue on the Future of Buildings

Brian Buckley, High Performance Buildings Associate

Brian Buckley, High Performance Buildings Associate

For quite some time, the zero net energy concept has struggled to reach beyond the domain of policy advocates and pilot projects; but the world is changing. Recent storms of unparalleled intensity, falling costs of distributed generation, and the real world possibility of large-scale energy storage have led to a unique moment in the building energy industry: Daybreak on Net Zero Energy.

But when will this transition take place?  What will it look like?  And how do we get there?

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Mid-year Update: State Progress on Building Energy Codes

Kevin Rose, Building Energy Technical Associate

Kevin Rose, Building Energy Technical Associate

Unlike automobiles, appliances, or consumer electronics, buildings constructed today will still have an impact on U.S. energy use 50 to 100 years from now—if not longer. Building energy codes improve the energy efficiency of these long-term investments by setting minimum requirements for new and renovated buildings.

In addition to lowering energy bills, energy codes reduce the demand for new energy generation capacity, thereby limiting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Advancing these codes over time to make our building stock more energy efficient is one of the most cost-effective and impactful strategies for decreasing energy use in buildings, and, in turn, the country.

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Workshop over Whitepaper, Energizing the ZNE Industry

shutterstock_20389108 resized    I started in May, fresh out of my sophomore year at Dickinson College, as NEEP’s High Performance Buildings Intern without the slightest clue what that title entailed. After two weeks of playing catch-up on the wide array of energy efficiency issues tackled by NEEP, I found myself scurrying around at the Newport Hyatt at 7am helping NEEP’s Buildings Team set up for the Daybreak on Zero Net Energy Buildings Workshop at the 2014 NEEP Summit, or #summit14 as we twitter-savvy NEEPer’s called it.

Although I was excited to see the “big picture” after focusing my prior efforts studying specific issues such as energy benchmarking, I was nonetheless fearful that the ZNEB workshop would be as dry and confusing as the PDF documents I had painstakingly scanned through for information on energy benchmarking. With a liberal arts school student’s level of prior exposure to the field of energy efficiency (that is, none), I was expecting to be hopelessly lost in a sea of acronyms and hyphenated phrases. Luckily, my fears were short-lived.

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Building Energy for Resiliency

Caitriona Cooke took some time out of her schedule to extol the benefits of better building design during an era riddled with more extreme weather patterns and to inform us of a great conference, Building Energy 2014, happening right around the corner in Boston.


Will you allow me a brief rant, if I share uplifting tales below? Here’s our problem: Mistakes are inevitable . . . but we have no excuses for repeated muck-ups. 

As complex systems within an even more complex system—the environment—building designs are prone to lots of mistakes. I find it hard to understand why so many professionals make the same mistakes repeatedly. Why this resistance to change? We have the information to avoid many of the mistakes that have proven so costly to our fellow citizens and the environment.

Resiliency “doesn’t just happen.”


A case in point: all the talk about reconstruction after superstorm Sandy. Rebuilding, in spite of evidence that both the frequency and intensity of storms is increasing— should at least make us consider whether it might be better to keep certain areas undeveloped. If we must rebuild, can’t we at least learn from our mistakes?

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2014 Building Energy Code Preview

2014 BuildingUnlike automobiles, appliances, or other consumer devices, buildings constructed today will still have an impact on U.S. energy use 50 to 100 years from now— if not longer. Building energy codes improve the energy efficiency of the built environment by setting minimum efficiency requirements for new and renovated buildings. In addition to lowering energy bills, energy codes reduce the demand for new energy generation capacity, thereby limiting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Advancing these codes over time to make them more energy efficient, as well as easier to enforce and comply with, is one of the most cost-effective strategies for decreasing energy use over the life of the building. As energy efficiency requirements in the code are continually enhanced, zero net energy buildings (ZNEBs), or buildings that can produce as much energy as they consume, can become the recognized standard of new construction.

State-by-state energy code outlook:

This year, NEEP expects four of the twelve states/jurisdictions in our region to update their building energy codes. These states—Delaware, Washington, D.C., New York, and Vermont— will all be adopting the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the most recently published version of the national model energy code. We also anticipate that four — D.C., Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont—will pursue the development and/or adoption of a “stretch” energy code, a supplement to the base energy code that provides an additional 15 – 20 percent boost in building energy efficiency. 

D.C.:  The 2013 D.C. Construction Codes Supplement, which includes the 2012 IECC (with some weakening amendments), is currently awaiting Council vote. This Supplement also includes D.C.’s first Green Construction Code, a stretch code that will apply to all commercial projects greater than 10,000 ft2 and all multi-family residential construction of four or more stories.

Del.: After holding a public hearing in January, Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is currently assessing public comments on its proposed 2012 IECC adoption and amendments. NEEP expects Delaware to finalize its adoption process within the next couple months.

N.Y.: New York has split its 2012 IECC adoption into two separate efforts to expedite the energy code update for commercial buildings. The New York Department of State is currently developing the new commercial code and projects an effective date of mid-2014, with the residential code update perhaps being completed in late 2014.

Mass.: Massachusetts, the first state in the region to develop a stretch code, is now tasked with updating its stretch code after adopting the 2012 IECC last July (the existing stretch code is roughly equivalent to the 2012 IECC). Massachusetts will also begin formulating an energy code utility claimed savings framework similar to Rhode Island’s this year.

R.I.: After adopting the 2012 IECC last year, Rhode Island — in partnership with National Grid — has embarked upon an extensive code compliance enhancement effort, including classroom and field trainings and a circuit rider service. Rhode Island leads the region as the only state in which a utility can claim savings that can be attributed to its code compliance activities. Additionally, Rhode Island recently completed its commercial stretch code — an amended version of the 2012 International Green Construction Code (IgCC) — and will begin developing a voluntary residential stretch code this year.

Vt.: Vermont is currently developing its 2014 Residential and Commercial Building Energy Standards (RBES and CBES), which will be a hybrid of the 2012 and 2015 IECCs (see below) and are expected to be completed by this summer. Also, after passing Act 89 last June, Vermont is currently developing its first residential and commercial stretch energy codes.

National energy code outlook:

2015 IECC: Despite the name, the next version of the national model energy code, the 2015 IECC, was finalized at the end of 2013 and will be published in spring 2014. Some of NEEP’s states, such as New Hampshire, New Jersey, and perhaps Pennsylvania, will likely bypass the 2012 IECC in favor of the 2015 IECC, though none of these adoptions are expected this year.

2015 IgCC: Code change proposals are currently being developed for the 2015 IgCC, which will be finalized in October.

For more information, see our Building Energy Codes webpage, which tracks energy code updates, trainings, and other happenings in the region. In addition, NEEP’s Model Progressive Building Energy Codes Policy provides policy recommendations and best practices for energy code adoption and compliance, including stretch codes.

NEEP Buildings Team Welcomes Two New Staffers

Darren PortDarren Port, Energy Codes Manager 

NEEP is pleased to welcome Darren Port, Energy Codes Manager, who joined the staff in January. Prior to joining NEEP, Darren worked as the Green Building Administrator for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Division of Codes and Standards, where he provided technical assistance, analysis and policy recommendations related to green/high performance buildings, codes, program initiatives and legislation.

Nationally, Darren served as an appointed member on the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) 2012 edition Consensus Committee and is currently serving on the 2015 IgCC Consensus Committee as well as serving on the 2012-2014 ASHRAE Standard 189.1 membership committee, with a focus on updating Standard189.1 for the design of high-performance, green buildings. Darren also serves as a regional Ambassador for the Living Building Challenge, a project of the International Living Building Institute. His primary areas of work will include energy codes, building energy rating and multi-family. Darren can be reached at dport@neep.org. Welcome, Darren!

Brian BuckleyBrian Buckley, High Performance Buildings Associate

Also brand new to the team is Brian Buckley, High Performance Buildings Associate. In 2013, Brian graduated from the Vermont School of Law with his Juris Doctor, Master of Environmental Law & Policy, and Energy Law Certificate. He has passed the bar exams in New York and Massachusetts.

Brian has spent time working with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC). At VPIRG he supported implementation of Vermont’s Property Assessed Clean Energy program and Wind Works Campaign. At VEIC he helped plan for the launch of a public purpose energy services company subsidiary and offered analysis related to energy project finance, taxation, permitting, and regulation. Before launching into law and policy, Brian spent several years in the building trades.

Brian’s primary area of focus will be schools, public buildings and building energy rating with a specific focus on benchmarking publically owned facilities. Brian can be reached at bbuckely@neep.org. Welcome, Brian!

Ma. StretchCode or: How I Learned to Stop Updating and Love the Timebomb

Unless Massachusetts communities push to update the state’s Stretch Code before July 1, 2014, the 20% boost in building energy efficiency it provides will evaporate, creating market confusion and violate the very concept behind its inception.

What is the Massachusetts Stretch Code?

If the title and picture seem completely bizarre to you, I’d highly recommend watching Dr. Strangelove after you finish reading this post. It’s a classic.

If the title and picture seem completely bizarre to you, I’d highly recommend watching Dr. Strangelove after you finish reading this post. It’s a classic.

Written in 2009, the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code (Appendix AA) is a voluntary supplement to the energy code designed to help cities and towns claim incentives offered by the Green Communities Act. The Stretch Code is approximately 20 percent more energy efficient than the state’s current base code, the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (2009 IECC), yielding annual energy savings of over $500 per home. [MORE]

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Innovation and Regulation: A Winning Partnership Formula

It’s always interesting to witness a convergence of events that serve to highlight and illustrate an issue raised in the course of public debate.

Such a convergence has occurred in recent weeks, in this case involving energy efficiency standards set by the states and the federal government, which date to the days when Ronald Reagan was governor of California and public consciousness began turning to the idea that energy was a vital commodity that needed to be regulated via public policy.

On December 31, with most of us ensconced in a holiday glow against the biting cold, the Associated Press ran a story nationally that cited the energy use consumption analysis compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing that the average amount of electricity consumed in U.S. homes has fallen to their lowest levels in more than a decade – this despite the fact that the proliferation of consumer electronics grew exponentially over that same time span. In fact, electricity consumption fell in 2012 for the second year in a row, as the graphic below depicts:

Source: U.S. EIA, December 20, 2013

Source: U.S. EIA, December 20, 2013









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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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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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State Energy Efficiency Policy Rundown

Josh Craft, Manager of Public Policy Analysis

May finds many states in the midst of important legislative and regulatory debates that will impact energy efficiency programs throughout the Northeast region. Below is an overview of some of the key energy efficiency proceedings we are keeping tabs on.


Connecticut is in the midst of serious debate about their energy policy future. We are tracking HB 6360, which would implement the major provisions of the Governor’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy. The bill is out of committee and should be headed for a vote soon. HB 6360 would boost energy efficiency revenue by increasing its system benefits charge from 3 mills/kWh to 6 mills/kWh and require its electric utilities to implement revenue decoupling.  It would also require certain large, non-residential buildings to benchmark and disclosure their energy use on an annual basis.

Legislation is not the only route for change, however. The state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) is actively considering allowing the utilities to increase investment in energy efficiency through a conservation adjustment mechanism (CAM). That proceeding, part of their 2013-2015 Conservation and Load Management (C&LM) plan proceedings, will be ongoing throughout this year.

Building Energy Codes

NEEP has focused much of our building codes outreach work in Maine, where proposals both to enhance and to dilute the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC) have been floating around this session. Prospects for passage of LD 977, which would restore MUBEC for communities above 2,000 residents, look favorable after it passed the Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development.

Moreover, we are also pleased to see that Vermont is poised to create its first “stretch” energy code as part of their omnibus energy bill, H. 520. The provision would apply to large residential development projects as part of compliance with the state’s Act 250 land use planning process. H. 520 is expected to be signed by Governor Peter Shumlin in the coming weeks.

NEEP is also working with states as part of upcoming rule-makings to adopt the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Rhode Island, Washington D.C., and Massachusetts are all actively working to adopt the 2012 IECC.

Building Energy Disclosure

Building energy disclosure policies are increasingly being discussed at the state level. Connecticut includes a fairly robust energy disclosure package for non-residential buildings as part of HB 6360, with benchmarking beginning for the largest buildings starting in January 2014. Vermont is also attempting to move ahead with building energy disclosure. Vermont’s H. 520 would create a working group to study a “consistent format and presentation for an energy rating” for disclosure purposes.

Oil Heat Efficiency Funding

NEEP continues to advocate for legislation that would extend access to energy efficiency programs to customers who rely on oilheat. We look forward to hearings later this summer legislation in Massachusetts on H. 2741, which would create an oilheat energy efficiency fund to supplement the state’s already strong energy efficiency programs. More information about this important legislation can be found at http://www.oilheatsaveenergycoalition.org/.

 RGGI Bills

States made headlines when they moved to lower their carbon budgets for the second phase of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This important move will enable the region to continue to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy efficiency and clean energy. Less attention has been given to a number of proposals that would divert investments from their carbon auctions away from energy efficiency and towards other uses. Three states have proposals we are concerned with:

  • In Massachusetts, the House’s FY 2014 budget would use RGGI proceeds to reimburse communities for certain lost revenues as a result of closing of coal plants.
  • In Maine, LD 1425, supported by Governor Paul LePage, would divert RGGI proceeds away from energy efficiency and towards rebates for natural gas conversion and rate reductions for large customers.
  • In New Hampshire, the majority of proceeds will continue to go towards rebates for customers, and new legislation would divert more funds away from the CORE energy efficiency programs.

NEEP looks forward to working with stakeholders from across the region to ensure that RGGI proceeds are invested in energy efficiency, which independent analysis shows is the most economical use of proceeds.

Federal Policy Update

Federal policy decisions have significant implications for energy efficiency policy in the states. Two potentially important developments are working their way through the Congress that stakeholders in the Northeast should be aware of.

  • FY 2014 Budget Request: President Obama’s FY2014 budget proposal includes $200 million for a “Race to the Top in Energy” initiative. Funding would be made available if the initiative is approved for state and local governments that put in place policy and programs to advance energy efficiency and modernizing the electricity grid. Details are available here (see pdf page 499).
  • S. 761, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competiveness Act: S. 761, the Energy and Industrial Competitiveness Act sponsored by Senators Jean Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) advanced through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The bill would support state updates to building energy codes, support state commercial building energy efficiency financing programs, and programs to support industrial and process energy efficiency. The bill now needs to be considered by the full Senate.