Help Decarbonize New Buildings
Building energy codes are one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions. And for the first time, the public has an opportunity to comment on the code and help to make it more demanding. This blog tells you how.
Building codes and performance policies are one of the most effective ways to reduce the carbon emissions driving the climate crisis. With buildings currently representing some 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions (the number varies depending on how emissions are counted), leading jurisdictions recognize the importance of strong climate policies for their buildings.
RMI estimates that to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, new construction in the U.S. must be all-electric by 2025, and climate-optimized by 2030. With just one code development cycle taking us to 2025, and only three to reach 2030, the provisions adopted into the 2024 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) are critical to achieving the model code we need to carry us to 2030.
The public comment monograph of the 2024 commercial IECC was released on September 6, 2022. Anyone is allowed to make comments on that draft, with a deadline for submitting comments of Friday, October 21st. We encourage you to make comments after attending NBI’s webinar at 1 PM ET on Thursday, September 29th, as discussed next:
To meet climate goals, we need the new code development process for the IECC to result in not just energy savings, but also a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and improved grid reliability benefits. Because of the potential impact of the code and the change in process, this review period presents a critical moment for engagement from stakeholders. All interested stakeholders have the opportunity to weigh in on the code language that jurisdictions will depend on for the next three years to make good on their climate commitments. Read on to learn how to engage in the public comment period to help ensure the commercial provisions in the 2024 IECC address the most important issues facing communities and the built environment today.
Important Progress for Climate
Both NRDC and New Buildings Institute (NBI) have been at the table throughout the development of the 2024 IECC, starting with submitting code change proposals in October 2021. These proposals which address the following topics are critical to addressing climate change:
- Commercial building and transportation electrification
- Renewable energy
- Grid integration: using electricity when the grid is clean
- Existing buildings
These are topics that have rarely, if at all, been discussed in the IECC code development process because historically the scope of the energy code has been limited to requirements that reduce the direct use of energy in buildings. NBI made important progress by introducing these topics, and even getting a few groundbreaking proposals into the 2024 IECC including:
- Electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure requirements to facilitate the electrification of the transportation sector, the single largest source of carbon emissions in the nation.
- Renewable energy and energy storage-ready requirements to promote the transition to an inexpensive, carbon-free, and resilient grid.
- Grid integration requirements for thermostats and water heaters to reduce utility costs, improve grid reliability and reduce carbon emissions if the building owner enrolls in a demand response program.
- Energy efficiency requirements for existing buildings, which present the largest opportunity to cost-effectively improve comfort while reducing utility bills and carbon emissions.
NRDC supported the NBI code change proposals: Go here to see all of the NBI proposals that were approved and included in the monograph.
NBI estimates that the gains made in this code cycle will put the IECC on track for achieving a net-zero ready energy code by 2030. We expect the following outcomes:
- 8-12 percent improvement in energy efficiency and associated reduction in consumer costs.
- An additional 12-15 percent reduction in building energy use from on-site renewable energy and other grid integrated resources.
- Creation of jobs, improved health, and accelerated transition to an equitable clean energy economy.
- Increased resilience of buildings to climate change consequences such as extended power outages.
Make Your Voice Heard
New construction codes and policies when aligned with climate goals are some of the most cost-effective ways for jurisdictions to cut carbon emissions, save energy, improve comfort and health for building occupants in homes and workplaces, and increase housing affordability. It’s important to weigh in during the next six weeks on what is a critical code cycle for addressing climate change. The International Code Council and commercial consensus committee need to hear your support for building codes that address climate change.
We need your help. We expect several climate-aligned proposals such as EV infrastructure and renewable energy requirements and energy storage readiness requirements to receive significant pushback from opponents in the public comment period. In addition, an NBI proposal to significantly reduce carbon emissions and improve the health of building occupants by requiring or incentivizing a shift away from on-site combustion equipment was not approved. Fossil fuel-burning equipment in our buildings currently make up one-third of our nation’s energy-related carbon emissions, and also worsen air quality both indoors and outdoors. Your comments during the public comment period could put this proposal back on the table and make sure important changes that have already been approved by the committee stay in the final code.
Weigh in by:
- Reviewing the monograph (here is the link.)
- Join a webinar NBI is hosting at 1 PM ET on Thursday, September 29th to learn more about major changes to the code, the process for submitting a public comment, and guidance on how you can influence decision makers.
- Submit comments by Friday, October 21st.
Long-term Climate Benefits
From 2006 to 2021, the IECC increased its efficiency requirements by about 40 percent, or an average of 8 percent a cycle. The 2024 IECC continues to reduce the energy use of buildings with efficiency and for the first time includes on-site renewable energy and grid integration requirements. However, we are in a paradigm shift where we need to begin to measure progress not just by kilowatt-hours saved, but by emissions reduction benefits achieved. Using the traditional evaluation process, the code’s benefits in reducing GHG, in quantifying the value of improved grid reliability and the positive health outcomes associated with the model code have been ignored. Nor does the model code process have target goals for any of these important benefits. This is a challenge that the building industry and efficiency advocates will need to address before we dive into the 2027 IECC.
This blog is based on the ongoing work of Diana Burk at New Buildings Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org), described in her blog, to coordinate efforts to improve model energy codes to meet climate goals, and to explain the outcomes and comment opportunities.
She also wrote the original text on which this blog is based.