State and Local Code Officials Deliver Historic Improvement in Building Energy Efficiency

November 1, 2010

Media Contact(s):

Harry Misuriello, 202-507-4030, cell: 703-477-4781, Visiting Fellow
Jennifer Thorne Amann, 202-507-4015, Buildings Program Director

More than 500 state and local code officials voted on changes to the nation’s model energy code to achieve energy savings of 30% relative to the 2006 model code. The new 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) meets the 30% savings goal sought by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of State Energy Officials, governors, lawmakers, and the broad-based Energy Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC). The model energy code governs home and commercial building construction, additions, and renovations in 47 states and the District of Columbia where local building codes are based on these national model standards.

“In the last four years, the International Code Council has accomplished more in efficiency improvements than all updates combined since 1975,” said Harry Misuriello, ACEEE Fellow and EECC organizer. “Local governments clearly realize that they and their citizens have an important stake in reducing building energy use, and that’s why they sent their delegates to Charlotte to vote for greater energy efficiency.”

The proposals adopted into the new code address all aspects of residential and commercial building construction, laying a strong foundation for residential efficiency gains and leading commercial building efficiency improvements. In the residential sector, improvements will:

  • 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.

The package of improvements for commercial buildings should match those for homes in terms of energy savings. In addition to many of the features cited above, the commercial buildings package includes continuous air barriers, daylighting controls, use of economizers in additional climates, and a choice of three paths for designers and developers to increase efficiency: renewable energy systems, more efficient HVAC equipment, or improved lighting systems. The package also requires commissioning of new buildings to ensure that the actual energy performance of the building meets the design intent.

“It is notable that the votes that will have the most profound impact on national energy and environmental policy this year weren’t held in Washington or a state capital, but by governmental officials assembled by the International Code Council in Charlotte, North Carolina," said EECC Executive Director William Fay. While all Americans will share in the energy and environmental benefits of more efficient buildings, homeowners and commercial building owners and occupants top the list of beneficiaries. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that an average home that’s 30% more energy efficient returns $511 a year in energy savings to homeowners after taking into account the small mortgage payment increase needed to pay for efficiency improvements. From the national economic perspective, efficient buildings will demonstrably reduce U.S. energy consumption, which will help stabilize energy costs to businesses and manufacturers, defer the need for new power plant construction, and, by reducing energy demand, improve national energy security.