Methodologies to Improve Commercial Building Code Compliance

building code
Presented at the AESP 26th National Conference on February 3, 2016
Ari Michelson, Brian McCowan, Frances Chase, ERS

Building energy codes in the U.S. have come a long way in the past three decades, increasing in complexity along the way. This is especially true for the commercial building sector, where codes have rapidly transitioned from representing basic minimum building performance levels, to requiring performance features that are on a path toward supporting high performance buildings and eventually zero net energy (ZNE) buildings. For commercial construction, the advancements in the code are comprehensive, affecting design and construction across multiple sectors and requiring that nearly all parties involved in a building coordinate their efforts to achieve compliance. The authors’ extensive experience in codes includes conducting four statewide compliance studies, an impact evaluation of national ARRA-funded energy code efforts, and training hundreds of code officials and design professionals across several states. From these efforts, it is clear that the existing mechanisms to provide technical support and training for the code, inspire advanced building design, and evaluate the success of code programs, must evolve to match the increasing complexity of codes. This paper provides an overview of this evolution of energy codes and the emerging trends expected to drive energy codes of the future. Within this changing landscape, the paper assesses the role of high performance building programs in improving energy code compliance and the efficiency of buildings in general, and then provides recommendations regarding how program administrators(PAs) and states should innovate their approaches to advancing code knowledge, improving enforcement practices, and increasing the value of compliance assessments to identify additional energy savings opportunities.


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