Code to Vastly Improve Energy Efficiency of Home, Commercial Building Construction

Local, state and federal government members of the International Code Council (ICC) on Oct. 30 adopted a new national model energy code that will significantly raise efficiency standards in buildings and homes.

Buildings account for nearly half of the United States' energy use, so the improved efficiency standards are a giant step forward for long-lasting cuts in wasted energy. The code, which will be published in April 2011, stands to boost the energy efficiency of both home and commercial building construction, additions and renovations by 30 percent.

“It's clear by their overwhelming votes that building officials across the U.S. recognize that we can lock in significant energy savings for generations to come,” said Alliance President Kateri Callahan, who added that the “easiest and cheapest” way to save energy and money in buildings is to make efficiency improvements during the construction and/or renovation phases.

Efficiency to Improve from Skylights to Foundation Insulation

The new code is derived from comprehensive building efficiency proposals authored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition, which was founded by and is housed at the Alliance to Save Energy. The new ICC code, which builds on both the DOE package and the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition's "30% Solution 2012," includes the following improvements:

  • Ensure that new homes are better sealed to reduce heating and cooling losses;
  • Improve the efficiency of windows and skylights;
  • Increase insulation in ceilings, walls and foundations;
  • Reduce wasted energy from leaky heating and cooling ducts;
  • Improve hot-water distribution systems to reduce wasted energy and water in piping; and
  • Boost lighting efficiency.

Efficiency proponents reaffirmed an Energy Efficient Codes Coalition proposal adopted in the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code that eliminated mechanical “tradeoffs,” meaning the code should consider all possible enhancements, including HVAC, windows and insulation to boost the efficiency of new homes. The delegates also voted to make the International Energy Conservation Code the ICC's sole source for energy efficiency provisions for residential buildings.

Dollars & Cents

The new code will allow an average homebuyer to pocket $511 in net annual energy after paying additional mortgage costs of the efficiency improvements, according to a study conducted by the DOE.

If all states adopted the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code in 2012 and achieved full compliance by 2013, the code is estimated to result in the following annual savings in the residential and commercial sectors:

  • Save the United States more than 3.5 quadrillion Btu of annual source energy consumption by 2030;
  • Save U.S. consumers and businesses about $40 billion (real 2008 dollars) in annual energy costs by 2030; and
  • Avoid about 200 million metric tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions by 2030; this is equivalent to the current emissions from 18 million American homes.

These estimates assume savings from all buildings covered by code, including new construction, major renovations and additions among single-family and multifamily homes as well as commercial buildings.

For more information

The Energy Efficient Codes Coalition is a national coalition to boost America's model energy code and is directed by Bill Fay.