Energy Codes Make Renovations Profitable

For additions, all new work must comply with the provision of the IECC as it relates to new construction. This, however, does not require the remaining portions of the building to comply.

When an existing building undergoes renovation, alteration or repair, there are several factors that will determine the scope of how to follow the energy code. As with additions, any new construction must conform to the code. Any unaltered portion of the building does not have to comply.

With occupancy changes, building owners must pay attention to whether the change will result in an increase in demand for energy. If it does, then the building must comply with the adopted code. If the energy demands do not increase, then the change of use will not trigger new requirements.

Continued Improvement

Recent improvements in the stringency of the model energy codes—not to mention the development of the first green construction codes addressing water efficiency, materials use and project location—continue to raise the floor and ceiling for energy-efficient design to levels unimaginable just a few short years ago.

Meanwhile, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided states and communities with unprecedented levels of funding and incentives to adopt the model energy codes. The past four years have seen a tremendous surge in code adoptions and upgrades with an
increased focus on code enforcement and compliance.

Going Forward

Despite all their recent progress, energy codes are still falling well short of their potential. Some industry professionals oppose energy-code updates because they believe the additional upfront costs will price some buyers out of the market. Because it is the building owners and operators who see the back-end payback through lower utility bills, there is little incentive for builders to support
the advancement and adoption of energy codes.

Moving forward, the challenges will be to ensure adopted energy codes are applied properly throughout the design, construction and enforcement phases to capture all the potential savings in all building projects, especially renovations. By increasing energy-code awareness and knowledge among all invested parties, this will become the standard and our retrofits will meet their maximum potential.

Millions of dollars and a lot of energy are being wasted every day by buildings not performing to their potential. By enforcing code provisions where they are required and encouraging building owners to incorporate energy-saving measures in all renovations and upgrades, we can begin to realize the magnitude of substantial energy savings that will benefit not only those paying the energy bills but the country as a whole. Let’s do our part.

About the Author

Maureen Guttman
Maureen Guttman, AIA, is a licensed architect with more than 25 years’ experience in energy-efficient and green-building design. As the Washington, D.C.-based Building Code Assistance Project’s executive director, she has overseen the launch of a nationwide campaign to support the adoption of today’s model energy codes.

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