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Research Highlights

October 2016

Built to Code: Savings Imminent Post-Code Adoption and Implementation

New report analyzes impacts of model building energy code development and implementation, indicates reduced carbon dioxide emissions

Built to Code: Savings Imminent Post-Code Adoption and Implementation
The City of Seattle recently announced adoption of the 2015 edition of the International Building Code, with amendments specific for the city.

New building energy codes are published every three years by a slew of organizations, such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the International Code Council (ICC). Post-publication, it is up local governments—cities or states—to make these model codes and standards the law.

A new report issued by researchers at PNNL—and sponsored by DOE’s Building Energy Codes Program—assesses the potential impact of building energy codes through 2040. The study shows that big savings in energy and offsets in carbon emissions can be achieved over the next 25 years if model codes are enacted as law.

More specifically, adopted building energy codes would save consumers $126 billion on energy bills and cut carbon emissions by more than 840 million metric tons from 2010 to 2040.


What’s in a Code?

Energy codes set minimum efficiency requirements for new and renovated buildings, assuring reductions in energy use and emissions over the life of the building. These codes are updated every three years—by organizations such as ASHRAE and ICC—and they govern building design and construction, including building insulation, windows, lighting, and HVAC equipment and systems.

Researchers at PNNL participate in code development and provide technical assistance—through funding from DOE—to local governments who are looking to implement updated or new codes.

PNNL’s impact analysis is broken out by state, but not all states were included since several have not adopted statewide codes and standards. As such, overall savings estimated are conservative.

The two model codes addressed in the assessment are the ASHRAE Standard 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The report notes that the most recent three editions of these codes have the potential to generate almost a 30 percent reduction in energy use compared to codes a decade ago.

“Building energy codes play a key role in providing significant energy savings and emissions reductions over the life span of residential and commercial buildings,” said Bing Liu, the PNNL Building Energy Codes program manager responsible for this assessment. PNNL’s analysis provides the energy and cost benefits to encourage states and localities to adopt energy-efficient model energy codes.”

For more information, read the PNNL report. To learn more about the adoption of building energy codes, visit DOE’s Energy Codes 101 article.

PNNL Research Team: Rahul Athalye, Deepak Sivaraman, Doug Elliott, Bing Liu, and Rose Bartlett

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