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Energy Codes Update 4th quarter 2012

Created 1/25/2013 by David Cohan
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The big news for the quarter is the adoption of a new energy code by the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC). This code is an improvement of approximately 8% for homes and 4% for non-residential buildings over the current 2009 energy code. Relative to the benchmark 2006 energy code, new homes will be about 25% more energy efficient and non-residential buildings will be somewhere between 15% and 20% more efficient. The state legislature established the 2006 code as the benchmark when it directed the SBCC to incrementally increase energy efficiency in new buildings by 70% by 2031. Following state law, the code must now sit through the 2013 legislative session during which time bills may be introduced to modify it. If the legislature does not make any changes it will automatically become effective in July 2013.


With adoption of the code, NEEA’s efforts immediately shifted to the creation of support materials and trainings for the new code. Because the underlying format of the code changed (from homegrown to using the national model code as the base document) a large amount of education will be needed just to get people to understand how to find information in the new code. A possible benefit to this change is that Washington may get support from US DOE to help create compliance tools. We have submitted a request to US DOE for them to create the tools using their funding for state technical assistance and are in the midst of providing them with the information they will need to make a decision. With luck, they will be able create a tool in time for trainings to begin well in advance of the July 2013 implementation date.



NEEA has initiated a collaborative process with the Energy Trust of Oregon and the Oregon Homebuilders Association (OHBA) to explore jointly developing a long-term vision for how energy codes in the state will evolve. If such a vision were created (and implemented!) it would provide predictability for the homebuilders and guarantee energy savings for NEEA and the Energy Trust. OHBA has officially endorsed the process and we have now met twice to establish the scope and basis of the collaboration. The first technical step is to create prototype models which can represent residential new construction in Oregon. The models will be used to develop savings estimates for packages of measures which will then feed into a to-be-determined process for deciding incremental costs and performing cost-benefit analyses. As far as we know, this effort is unprecedented nationally so it will be interesting to see how it proceeds.


Also in Oregon, Howard Asch, a former building official from Michigan, has been hired by OHBA to be their general codes expert. NEEA is funding a significant share of this position so that a portion of Howard’s time can be focused on education and training for the residential energy code throughout the state.


On the commercial side, Oregon Building Codes Division (BCD) has announced the start of a code development process for what will be the 2014 energy code. NEEA will be actively participating and submitting code change proposals. We have also scheduled three trainings in January focusing on building science and envelope continuity. The curriculum was developed under a BPA grant and NEEA is now funding classes throughout the region. Following up on an item from the previous update, a NEEA contractor was asked to identify commercial buildings that have the potential to meet the Oregon Reach Code. A significant review failed to find any buildings that could meet it without significant changes to their construction plans. (And no commercial building has applied to be certified under it.) NEEA therefore plans to explore other ways to establish the credibility of the reach code working with BCD and the Energy Trust.



The Energy Codes Collaborative met again in November with the expanded stakeholder group which has focused on gaining consensus for a plan for future energy code adoptions. Information on the economic and energy impacts of adopting the residential portions of the 2012 IECC (Idaho currently has the 2009 IECC) was presented by both efficiency advocates and homebuilders. No conclusions were reached but there was a robust dialogue and another meeting has been scheduled for February 5th. An important outcome from the meeting was unanimous agreement that the commercial sections of the 2012 IECC should be adopted by the state. Attendees plan to present this recommendation to the Building Codes Structures Board at their February 19th meeting. If the adoption process goes smoothly, the effective date would be January 1, 2015.


A draft of the residential compliance study, which was funded by NEEA and completed in Q4, was sent to the original planning group for comment in December. A final version will be published in January.



After many months of discussions with the Montana Building Industries Association (the homebuilders group) trying to come to agreement on a NEEA-funded, MBIA-run energy code compliance program in self-certification areas, it became clear that such an arrangement will not happen at this time. NEEA has hired the National Center for Appropriate Technology – which runs the Montana Energy Codes Collaborative under a NEEA contract -- to develop a long-term strategy for energy codes in Montana during the first quarter of 2013.



The Northwest Energy Codes Group submitted 20 proposed amendments to the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code development process. The amendments were created by regional code experts convened by NEEA. The next step in the development process is publication of all proposals received by the International Code Council on March 11 and then the Committee Action Hearings April 21-30 at which proponents present their proposals, opponents present their objections and a committee votes whether or not to support them.

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Sector: Non-Sector Specific
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Energy Codes and Standards, Utility Sounding Board (USB)

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