In the past, I’ve heard it said that just getting all the states to adopt the IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) and enforce code requirements would result in significant energy savings. Thanks to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), we’re getting a chance to test that theory. The results might be surprising to some.

The DOE’s “Single-Family Residential Energy Code Field Study,” conducted in December 2015 analyzed more than 1,100 newly built homes across six states and different climate zones as part of phase 1 that would set a benchmark for the effectiveness of energy codes. Among the codes deemed to have the largest impact were envelope air-tightness, wall and ceiling insulation, lighting, foundation insulations, duct leakage and, of course, window solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) and U-factor.

Goals of the field study were three-fold:

  1. To establish energy use intensity (kBtu/sf/year) of code-regulated energy in single-family homes in a state;
  2. To identify code requirements with high savings potential and low compliance to target with education and training; and
  3. To calculate the potential energy, cost and emissions benefits from increased compliance with targeted requirements.

After the baseline study is complete (not all states have reported), phase 2 will include education and training using information from the study and a follow-up field study will be completed in phase 3.

How are we doing as an industry?

The short answer: quite well.

While the results are only preliminary at this point, we have a reason to feel proud. Of the different categories observed, windows was one of the only ones that was “consistently better than code” with less than three non-compliant homes per state observed. This speaks volumes about window manufacturers and builders as they relate to developing and installing code-compliant products.

In terms of performance overall–beyond windows–observations were positive, even though only one state adopted IECC 2015 (Maryland), while the remainder were still on IECC 2009. DOE is also studying the actual energy consumption over the three-year study to look for opportunities to improve building performance and design.

The View from Here is that this kind of study can be very beneficial in terms of future code changes and relevant savings in dollars and energy for consumers. It will also better inform the DOE on where investment and resources can best be positioned in the future.

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1 Comment

  1. Not to be impudent but where is the news? Yes, states are adopting new building codes demanded by the Congress and the DOE. Yes, the industry is obeying the law where applicable; always a good idea! But are the codes delivering the lower cost in heating and cooling commensurate with the higher costs of code conforming products? What am I missing or misunderstanding?

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