How Will This Year's Vote on the IECC Affect Your Next Project?

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Today, there are many voices making waves in building codes and green/energy-efficient design; none are more important than the views of local officials that vote on hundreds of proposals to change the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). This year, voting on the regulations will take place November 8th thru November 21st, 2016, then implementation of the various codes elected will be left to state and local jurisdictions to adopt and enforce, says senior energy policy advocate Lauren Urbanek at the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC).

Changes to the IECC will include additional standards to increase the energy efficiency of residential and commercial built environments to collectively save end users billions of dollars each year in energy bills. Some of the new requirements supported by the NRDC are Improved Windows that will employ existing energy-efficient windows on the market, Efficient Lavatory Faucets that will limit flow to 1.5 gallons per minute, and Water Heater Proximity to Fixture Outlets that has been a standard in Europe for decades with on-demand systems.

These fixtures have been included in the IECC previously, but tighter regulations will reflect further improvements in residential and commercial construction to conserve natural resources and “avoid the pollution from fossil fuel-fired electricity generation that fuels climate change.”

There is no doubt that material expenditures for building owners will increase for traditional residential and commercial projects that previously have not sought to meet the voluntary “beyond code” green rating systems. The additional costs to build green lie around 2.4% states Greg Kats in his book “Greening Our Built World: Costs, Benefits, and Strategies,” but what is to be preferred, a low initial investment or low energy costs over the life of the structure? The current return on investment (ROI) is expected to be around 19.2% on existing green projects and 9.9% on new projects per the USGBC’s webpage on “The Business Case for Building Green.” And property owners can expect incentives and tax benefits by way of “tax credits, grants, expedited building permits, and reductions/waivers in fees.”

Scheduling products shouldn’t be a problem in most scenarios as certified products to meet the standards already exist such as residential Energy Star certified windows and doors. Commercial property owners will have to depend on design professionals for compliant fenestrations. This could increase planning lead times as professionals climatize themselves to not only new codes, but the appearance of the code books. Contractors may hold up project lead times, as well, as they, too, continue to learn installation measures for required systems, materials, and fixtures.

Concerns about climate change are high in all organizations related to green building, not only the NRDC (As stated above). The USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) recommends model green building codes and standards, such as their LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program. The NBI (National Buildings Institute) promotes their “Zero Net Energy” program to improve the energy performance of commercial buildings by supporting designs that ensure buildings can create more energy than they use. And EECC (Energy Efficient Codes Coalition) that, like the NRDC, also makes voting recommendations for a more efficient IECC. These are just to name a few. Many other organizations are, also, working hard along with these prestigious few to make changes to protect not only users of the built structures but also the environment. Let’s hope all that can do get out and vote for positive changes in the industry.

For further information, visit the U.S. Department of Energy for a list of currently adopted energy codes by state.