New Energy Code Will Result in Increased Energy Efficiency for Residential and Commercial Buildings

November 8, 2010
by Carolyn Berndt 

The 2012 International Energy Conservation Code adopted last week at the Final Action Hearings of the International Code Council (ICC) will result in historic gains in the energy efficiency of building energy codes.

Local governments from across the nation sent delegations to Charlotte, N.C., to vote on this historic proposal, which will likely achieve a 30 percent energy efficiency and conservation savings over the 2006 IECC.

Increased energy efficiency in buildings is particularly important as over one third of all global greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere annually come from this sector. In the United States, buildings account for 39 percent of the nation's energy use and 72 percent of electricity use.

For residential buildings, the 2012 IECC 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.

Along with many of the envelope, duct and air sealing features cited above, the 2012 IECC package for commercial buildings includes continuous air barriers; daylighting controls; increasing the number of climate zones where economizers are required; and a choice of three paths for designers and developers to increase efficiency: using renewable energy, installing more efficient HVAC equipment or lighting systems.

Cities in more than 40 states use the IECC to set baseline energy efficiency standards for residential construction.

"The next goal will be for states and localities to adopt the 2012 IECC so that all new homebuyers and commercial building owners can begin to benefit from improved efficiency," said Bill Fay of the Energy Efficiency Codes Coalition (EECC).

Delegates also voted to eliminate the weaker Energy Chapter of the International Residential Code, supplanting it with the IECC and removing confusion and contradiction within the codes. The IECC is now the ICC's only model energy code for residential and commercial buildings.

Energy efficient buildings and codes have been identified as a priority issue by NLC's Energy, Environment and Natural Resources (EENR) Policy Committee. For more information about EENR's work on this issue please contact Carolyn Berndt at berndt@nlc.org.