Rigorous Energy Codes – will it be enough?

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Building Control measures account for nearly a third of all energy codes.  And, buildings account for 40% of all energy used in the United States, yet according to the Building Technology Office (BTO), only 43% of commercial floor space utilizes a building control system. (Marina Sofos, 2018)  Even more alarming is that many of the buildings that have building controls lack the proper configuration to fully utilize their systems.  As a facility manager, you are tasked with not only maintaining your buildings, ensuring a smooth flow of operations, you are also faced with how to do your part to stop the growing emissions affecting our climate – frequently with limited resources.

In 2018 buildings measured their highest level of emissions since 2004- primarily as a result in rapid economic growth. (Danigelis, 2019) CBS News, Money Watch, Irina Ivanova explains that the economic growth in 2018, the largest in 15 years, highly contributed to the record-setting growth for emissions, even though the use of coal power declined dramatically. (Ivanova, 2019)

The Year of Energy Codes

New Buildings Institute, Ralph DiNola predicts that 2019 will be “The Year of Energy Codes”, with increasing numbers of cities and states adopting more stringent energy codes, codes exceeding the national standards. (DiNola, 2019)

Reduce Energy Consumption sign

The state of California’s 2019 Title 24 leads the way with its requirement for solar panels and zero energy in all new homes.  In the state of Washington, Governor Jay Inslee recently proposed a climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25% less than 1990 levels. (Garry, 2018) Inslee’s plan includes measures to phase out HFCs. Inslee’s proposal also includes a “transition to 100% clean energy and ultra-efficient buildings” writes Hydrocarbons 21’s, Michael Garry.

While cities and states plow ahead into more stringent energy codes, we are also seeing increased use of renewable energy. Iowa, Oregon, and Washington receive over 90% of their energy from renewable sources.  Other states, Hawaii, California, and Massachusetts have committed, are proposing or considering legislation which requires all energy come from renewable sources. (Stephen a. Roosa, 2018)

The New Buildings Institute also provides a tool for benchmarking how state codes stack up to each other in their efforts to achieve a zero-energy code.  The tool is called zEPI Jurisdictional Score and in 2018, Michigan, Massachusetts, and California were the top-ranking states.  Idaho, Florida, and Wisconsin also showed code improvements.

The New Building Institute (NBI) offers local governments a code guidance document, 20% Stretch Energy Code Provisions, which outlines measures for increasing energy efficiencies in commercial buildings 20 to 40% more than current conventions. The model code addresses measures for building envelope, lighting, heating and cooling, ventilation, hot water, and plug and equipment loads.

Averting Climate ChangesLets save the world

Conserving energy has never been of greater importance than it is today.  At our current levels of CO2 emissions, our planet and societies are in jeopardy.  Media reports, governments, scientists, and researchers clearly indicate the need for tremendous changes.  We know that CO2 emitted into the atmosphere remains for more than 100 years. AEE, editor in chief, Stephen Roosa writes, “Scientists warn that current CO2 emissions must be reduced by half over the next 50 years to avert changes to our climate that will be difficult to mitigate.” (Stephen A Roosa, 2018)

We will continue to see an increase in code requirements for new buildings and anticipate codes for existing buildings to follow.  There is no way to ignore the energy usage and emissions from existing buildings and meet the target greenhouse gasses reduction needed.  Furthermore, it is essential to maintain the efficiencies gained over time through occupant behavior, setpoint optimization, and mechanical repairs and maintenance.

Now that the media and our governments are striving towards impactful changes to decrease emissions and protect our world for future generations, the question lingers, Will it be enough, soon enough?

R3 Retail Development provides building energy management system design and shop drawing services, building controls equipment, start-up, and on-going EMS management and optimization services.

Works Cited

Danigelis, A. (2019, January 11). Why US Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Energy Rose Sharply in 2018. Retrieved from Energy Manager Today: https://www.energymanagertoday.com/carbon-dioxide-emissions-2018-0181049

DiNola, R. (2019, January 14). 2019 is the year of energy codes. Retrieved from New Buildings Institute: https://newbuildings.org/2019-is-the-year-of-energy-codes/

Garry, M. (2018, December 13). Washington Governor Proposes HFC reduction program. Retrieved from Hydrocarbons 21: http://hydrocarbons21.com/articles/8734/washington_governor_proposes_hfc_reduction_program

Ivanova, I. (2019, January 9). U.S, carbon emissions jumped in 2018 despite record coal plant closings. Retrieved from CBS News: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/u-s-carbon-dioxide-emissions-jumped-in-2018-despite-record-coal-plant-closings/

Marina Sofos, P. (2018, May 2). Building Technologies Office Sensor and Control Technologies R&D Overview. Retrieved from Energy.Gov: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2018/05/f52/Sofos-Peer-Review-S%26C-050218.pdf

Stephen A Roosa, P. C.-i. (2018). Eclipsing 410. Full Issue PDF Volume 38, Issue 1, Strategic Planning for Energy and, 1-79.

Stephen a. Roosa, P. C. (2018). Make America Renewable Again. (2018) Full Issue PDF Volume 38, Issue2, Strategic Planning for Energy and the Environment, 1-80.

About the author

Suzanne Ferguson is a leading program management and process expert with over 20 years’ experience successfully developing and implementing programs and systems across multiple industries. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Oregon University in Organizational Change and a Masters in Business Administration from Willamette University.