The 2015 Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is expected to have a huge impact on sustainability efforts moving forward. Flexibility is central to this expectation. The changes in the code give designers and builders more opportunities to choose the best sustainability solutions for the specific needs of the structure they are creating, making it much easier to drive energy efficiency moving forward.
Energy codes and their inherent limitation
Like most energy codes, the 2015 IECC presents industry stakeholders with unique challenges. Namely, the codes exist on national or international levels, but states can choose to ratify them based on their own preferences. That means that compliance on local levels may not keep up with what is happening in recent codes. This will likely not be the case for the 2015 energy code, which many experts believe will get ratified by most states in the U.S. In fact, a Green Building Law Update report explained that the need to adjust to the 2015 IECC could soon become pressing.
According to the news source, most states ignored the 2012 IECC and have instead stuck with the 2009 regulations. This comes despite some significant sustainability benefits tucked within those recommendations. The 2015 IECC does little in terms of direct energy efficiency benefits over IECC 2012, but the Department of Energy is mandating that all states at least consider it, creating an environment where high levels of adoption are likely.
There is also a sense that the new Energy Rating Index in the 2015 IECC could end up leading to monumental sustainability gains, even if the rest of the standard does not mandate major improvements. The reason is simple – the ERI provides flexibility.
Considering the implications of the ERI
Citing data from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, the National Resource Defense Council explained that full compliance with the 2015 IECC would lead to a quarter of a trillion dollars in economic benefits during the next 15 years. That figure will only grow as more new structures are built, compounding the sustainability gains brought on by the standard. The ERI is a huge component of this process.
The NRDC explained that the ERI is essentially the equivalent of the miles-per-gallon emissions standard used in the automotive sector. Instead of having to comply with device- or material-specific energy efficiency guidelines, designers and builders could choose to measure the ERI score of the entire building. A lower score is better, and all stakeholders would need to do is make sure the whole structure’s ERI is lower than the mandated figure for the specific region where the home is located. A score of 100 would equal a home in compliance with 2006 IECC standards, while a score of zero represents a zero-emission building. Most regions feature a required rating in the low-to-mid 50s.
This flexibility is a game changer for builders and designers. The days of painstakingly sourcing specific components because they achieve IECC compliance are gone. Instead, project leaders can choose the best materials and most sensible devices and simply combine them to make sure they achieve necessary sustainability requirements as a whole. This allows individuals to focus on the most efficient, cost-effective way to build sustainable homes.
Getting ready for the 2015 IECC
Of course, any regulatory standard isn’t simple. Even if ERI offers incredible flexibility, you must fully understand exactly how it is calculated. This, among other measures in the 2015 IECC, make training essential. As the fiscal and project flexibility benefits of the 2015 IECC draw states to ratify the standard, designers and builders must work to learn its nuances. Continuing education courses can make it easier to stay on top of new IECC developments.