Where the Northwest
shapes energy efficiency



Created 10/21/2013 by David Cohan
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3rd QUARTER 2013



Things have finally calmed down a little after the big push to create compliance tools and deliver training after the new code became effective this summer. The focus now has shifted from classroom training to telephone and email technical support which are getting large numbers of requests for information.


The State Building Code Council adopted two emergency rules this quarter. The first moves Ferry, Okanogan, Pend Oreille and Stevens counties into the same climate zone as the rest of eastern Washington, eliminating the need for a different set of requirements to deal with a third climate zone. The second establishes a prescriptive path for increased glazing in commercial buildings which was done at the request of the development industry. These changes and various interpretations of the new code have required NEEA’s contractors, WSU and NEEC, to update compliance forms.


Pacific Northwest National Laboratory finished work on a Washington-specific version of RESCheck, US DOE’s software used for insulation and window trade-off calculations. WSU has long provided a spreadsheet for this purpose but this is the first time that Washington has been able to take advantage of this program which is widely used around the country. WSU will continue to support its spreadsheet for the remainder of this code cycle but anticipates transitioning completely to RESCheck after that. (Assuming DOE will keep providing customized versions of RESCheck.)


The State Building Code Council began discussions on creating a state reach code. While the Council has not yet made a final decision on approach, the working assumption is that NEEA will initially be working with the WA Department of Commerce and others to identify individual measures that might be included in a reach code. That process will take several months after which a separate process will determine how the measures will be packaged and incorporated into a usable code format.


91 people received training on the residential energy code in Q3. No non-residential trainings were conducted. They will resume in January or earlier.




The adoption process for the 2014 commercial energy code (Oregon Energy Efficiency Specialty Code) has been completed and the expected effective date is April, 2014. While not a major upgrade to efficiency, substantial savings will result from increased lighting and equipment requirements.


A potentially very positive development on the commercial side is that the Oregon Department of Energy may once again be supporting the energy code through education and outreach activities. They played this role for more than two decades until various reorganization decisions took them out of it a few years ago. It will be great to have them back if it works out.


On October 1st, the Oregon Building Codes Division began accepting amendment proposals for the 2014 Oregon Residential Specialty Code (which includes the energy code). The official announcement of the process made it clear that BCD is only looking for minor changes to the existing code. Since NEEA has been collaborating for several months with the Oregon Homebuilders Association (OHBA) and the Energy Trust of Oregon with the intention of submitting a proposal to this process BCD’s starting point was a little disappointing and politically it makes it more difficult for OHBA to support efficiency. The good news is that NEEA research has uncovered at least a few measures with large savings and small costs which we are hopeful can form the basis for a joint proposal that will be acceptable to BCD.


Howard Asch, OHBA’s residential energy code educator funded by NEEA, conducted three trainings with a total of 135 attendees in Q3.



Preparation for upgrading the residential code to 2012 IECC levels began in earnest with the Collaborative testing building air leakage in the homes of over a dozen builders and providing trainings on how to build a tighter home. The testing was done to get a better feel for typical air leakage rates in new Idaho homes and the results were encouraging as leakage is much lower than anticipated. Knowing that they are already well down the path to tight homes will make it easier for builders to accept mandatory testing in the future. An additional benefit to the testing and training was greatly increased visibility of David Freelove, the Idaho energy code circuit rider. He is slowly but surely becoming the face of energy codes in Idaho which was the original intent when the position was created last year.


57 people received energy code training in Q3.



The Montana Building Codes Council met on September 20th to hear testimony regarding moving from the current 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) to the significantly more stringent 2012 version of that code. The excellent result was state-wide adoption of the commercial section of the 2012 code without amendments and of the residential section with one important amendment that kept wall insulation at the same levels as the 2009 code. Overall, however, this is a major step forward, particularly since the Montana Building Industry Association (MBIA) had initially been opposed to the 2012 in any form but ended up being very supportive which was key to getting it adopted. One of the biggest changes is that blower door testing will now be required for all new homes. NEEA will work with MBIA and others to ensure that equipment is available and training is provided in all areas of the state.


39 people received training in Q3.



The 2015 International Energy Efficiency Code, which is the new national model energy code, was finalized during the first week in October. (OK, officially this happened in Q4 but I’m going to include it here.) Many of the most important things that happened were actually defensive actions against proposals to weaken the residential code relative to the 2012 version which homebuilders, in particular, viewed as being overly stringent and restrictive. In addition to these defensive actions, which were largely successful, several important proposals were adopted. Here are some of the most important:



  • A new chapter was added which clarifies the requirements for additions, alterations and repairs in existing buildings. This was previously very confusing.
  • Historic buildings were completely exempted from every provision of the 2012 IECC. The new code language eliminates the blanket exemption and now requires the submission of a report detailing why meeting any specific code provision would be detrimental to the historic character of the building.
  • Occupancy sensors and daylighting controls are now mandatory in many types of spaces not covered by the 2012 IECC, including warehouses and lounge rooms.
  • Lighting controls must be commissioned and LPDs were reduced for most types of spaces in commercial buildings.
  • All air-cooled, direct expansion HVAC units >4.5 tons with an economizer must be equipped with a fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) reporting system. The system must be accessible by day-to-day operating personnel or on zone thermostats in the building.
  • Dedicated Outdoor Air Systems will be available in the 2015 IECC as a compliance option for the 'options packages' for the first time ever in an IECC code. These efficient systems use a mechanism to condition a space that is independent of the system providing ventilation thereby maximizing the energy efficiency of each.



  • A new compliance path based on energy ratings, such as the Home Energy Rating System (HERS), was established.
  • Demand controls are now required on hot water circulation systems.
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