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Energy Codes Update 1st Quarter 2013

Created 5/3/2013 by David Cohan
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1st QUARTER 2013



The Washington residential code compliance study was released in March and the results were spectacular. Using two different analytical techniques, the study showed compliance rates of 96 percent and 97 percent respectively. To the best of NEEA’s knowledge, these are the highest rates that have been claimed anywhere in the country. The results are a tribute to Washington homebuilders and building officials and the training and education offered by Washington State University and funded by NEEA over many years.


With the adoption of a new energy code by the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) in late November 2012, NEEA contractors switched almost all of their efforts to development of training curricula and compliance tools. Because the underlying format of the code changed (from homegrown to using the national model code as the base document) preparation has been even more intense than normal. The new code goes into effect July 1 and there is strong and growing demand for training. Over 400 people received residential training during Q1; commercial has seven trainings scheduled in April and May.


An unfortunate twist in the adoption process occurred a few months ago when US DOE effectively rejected its own new residential furnace standard that was scheduled to raise the minimum efficiency from 80% to 90% in May 2013. The options table of the new Washington code assumed that the requirement would be 90% and the options and associated points in the table were developed using that assumption. With the reversion to an 80% federal standard the table is no longer correct. We have submitted proposals to revise the table and the SBCC will review these on May 3rd. It then has the option of incorporating approved proposals into the code for the July 1 effective date using its emergency rulemaking authority.


NEEA negotiated with US DOE to have them create a Washington-specific version of RESCheck, a popular software program that allows builders to easily verify they are complying with the code when they are using the ‘trade-off’ method (e.g. better windows can make up for less insulated walls). Though this method is not commonly used in Washington there is a value of having a federally-supported tool for the future.



The development process for the 2014 Oregon commercial energy code began in earnest in Q1. NEEA submitted six proposals that will be heard by the state Construction Industry Energy Board on May 16th. NEEA has been asked by staff at the Oregon Building Codes Division (BCD) to work on presenting a single comprehensive proposal that could be considered by the Board.


NEEA’s collaborative process with the Energy Trust of Oregon and the Oregon Homebuilders Association (OHBA) exploring the joint development of a long-term vision for Oregon energy codes made some progress in Q1. NEEA created energy models for three prototypes (large and medium single family homes and a multifamily townhome) which the group decided were representative of residential new construction in the state. The models’ inputs and assumptions were sent out to and then accepted by the group so the models will now serve as the basis for determining measures and energy savings. The next step is a meeting on May 10th to decide what economic criteria will be used to determine whether a measure is acceptable and in what order they should be implemented.


Howard Asch, OHBA’s residential energy code expert funded by NEEA, spent Q1 determining educational needs and opportunities through visits to stakeholders and began developing curricula to meet those needs. He is offering trainings beginning in April. On the commercial side, NEEA funded three trainings in January focusing on building science and envelope continuity using a curriculum developed under a BPA grant. A total of 73 people attended.



A NEEA study of residential energy code compliance in Idaho was released in February; using two different methodologies, estimated compliance rates were 90% and 83% respectively. These results rank among the highest found in pilot studies in several states conducted by the US Department of Energy and reflect the work of the homebuilding industry, building officials and training efforts provided by the Idaho Energy Codes Collaborative.


The circuit rider position, which was a key innovation introduced in 2012, is maturing nicely thanks largely to the efforts of David Freelove who holds the position. The number of calls he is answering and the number of trainings he is both doing and being requested to do are increasing steadily. This aligns well with the original vision for the circuit rider which is to have a single centralized source of energy code information in the state.


Another step in the adoption of the next Idaho energy code took place in February with the submission to the Building Codes Structures Board of a consensus proposal from the Energy Codes Collaborative and the Idaho Building Contractors Association supporting adoption of the 2012 IECC. The proposal recommends that the commercial sections of the 2012 IECC be adopted as written and the residential portions be amended to reduce the requirements to approximately those of the 2009 IECC. The understanding is that these would be increased over time up to 2012 levels with the method and timeline to determine such changes decided in future meetings between the homebuilders and the Collaborative.


61 people were trained in Q1, 44 of them by the circuit rider.



The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, NEEA’s current Montana energy codes contractors, met with Northwestern Energy and NEEA to talk about developing a long-term strategic plan for energy codes in the state. An outline of the concepts that were discussed has been developed and, after further discussion, should form the basis for creation of a draft plan which will include schedules and roles and responsibilities.


28 people were trained in Q1.



The Northwest Energy Codes Group reviewed over 600 code change proposals that were submitted to the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code development process and made a decision to support, oppose or ignore each one during the first (Committee Action) hearings that are happening April 21-30 in Dallas, Texas.

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