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Energy Codes Update – Q2 2012

Created 4/23/2012 by David Cohan
Updated 4/23/2012 by David Cohan
119 views • 2 comments
Washington continues down the path of switching from the state-developed Washington State Energy Code (WSEC) to the nationally-developed International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). This switch necessitated an additional step in the normal code development cycle: the Energy Technical Advisory Group (TAG) first had to create a “mash-up” document which incorporated components of the WSEC into the IECC. The mash-up, which was completed in December, was then designated as the base document for all code change proposals to be submitted this cycle; effectively the mash-up became the “existing” code for purposes of developing proposals. Proposals were due March 21st and almost 200 were submitted. On March 29th the TAG met to establish the process and timeline for reviewing the proposals. The process will likely take 2-3 months and the result will be a comprehensive package of proposals submitted to the State Building Code Council. The Council may then accept the package, modify it or send it back to the TAG for modifications. The mash-up document as it stands is a good step forward for efficiency as it started with a very good code (2012 IECC) and then added many of the best features of the WSEC.. For the proposal process, therefore, NEEA is more interested in maintaining the gains that were incorporated into the mash-up than in pushing for more savings. While this approach is a bit conservative, it reflects: (1) the large efficiency gains that were captured in the previous code and (2) the extremely volatile political atmosphere around codes currently which could easily lead to backlash and reverses in efficiency. (Multiple bills with negative implications for energy codes were introduced into this year’s legislature.) NEEA’s focus in 2012 has been on the development process but our contractors (WSU Energy Program and Northwest Energy Efficiency Council) are still providing technical assistance and some training. Training will ramp up as the year continues.

NEEA proposed the creation of a “circuit rider” position to the Idaho Energy Code Collaborative in November and offered to fund it. The Board of the Idaho Association of Building Officials subsequently voted to house and manage the position, creating a Circuit Rider Oversight Board specifically for that purpose. Candidates were interviewed and a winner selected on April 12. This position will greatly increase the capacity for energy code outreach and education throughout the state.

Discussions are also beginning about the adoption of the 2012 IECC. (The state currently enforces the 2009 IECC.) The Idaho Building Code Board has responsibility for deciding whether to pursue new code adoptions. At its last meeting it considered the issue but made no decisions.

NEEA has been in discussions with the Oregon Homebuilders Association (OHBA) to deliver residential code training in Oregon. On March 27th a coordination meeting was held with the Oregon Building Codes Division (BCD), BPA, Energy Trust, OHBA, NEEA, Earth Advantage and PECI. All of these groups are involved with the residential code and with voluntary programs which interact with the code. To avoid confusion in the market, it is critical that roles and responsibilities are defined and that both messaging and technical content are consistent. Based on discussions at the meeting, NEEA will contract with OHBA to deliver training with a strong focus on the market (builders and subcontractors) and a supporting role for local building departments. On the commercial side, NEEA will again contract with PECI to deliver trainings to the market. There is no code development occurring in Oregon in 2012.

BCD has been internally discussing the concept of skipping a code cycle or having an abbreviated development process. This is in response to the poor economy and BCD’s hesitancy to require either local building departments or builders to learn a new code and incur increased construction costs. NEEA’s preference would be to have an abbreviated process in which a limited number of substantive changes are made. We will be tracking these discussions as they evolve.

The Montana Energy Code Collaborative met on March 8th to discuss the implications of the residential code compliance study which NEEA conducted. The key, though perhaps unsurprising, finding is that compliance is substantially higher in areas where there is enforcement. Unfortunately, almost 2/3 of Montana homes are built in so-called “self-certifying areas” which have no enforcement. The Collaborative concluded that, for political reasons, there is no way to require enforcement in these areas. A variety of voluntary approaches was therefore discussed and the Montana Building Industries Association (the homebuilders group) offered to develop a proposal to increase compliance in these areas. The proposal was received on March 28 and NEEA is currently working with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, its contractor, to decide how best to proceed. The desired outcome is to find a way to work formally with MBIA which would have multiple benefits in terms of leveraging their credibility and name recognition and bringing greater general alignment among various parties on the energy code.
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Comments (2)
Owen Howlett on 04/26/12 on 04:07 PM (Pacific Time)
David, you might want to mention that California Title 24 2013 is in the final stages before adoption.  We're currently taking comments on the 45-day language, and we expect to publish 15-day language on May 7th.  Final adoption is expected May 23rd.  The 45-day language, and instructions on how to submit comments, are at the Title 24 Rulemaking website.

Rashad Morris on 04/30/12 on 03:31 PM (Pacific Time)
Very helpful update, David.  Thanks!

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