A Kilowatt-Hour Saved is a Kilowatt-Hour Earned
States are leading the way in reducing energy bills for residential and commercial building owners. Both states and localities are increasing building energy code efficiency to help owners and renters reap the economic and comfort benefits of improved heating and cooling systems, insulation and ventilation. Energy efficiency investments reduce operating costs and can have payback periods as short as two years. Many states have found that every dollar invested in efficiency returns at least $2 in net economic benefits. Lowering energy consumption also supports state air quality goals since efficiency reduces fuel consumption, decreasing pollution. In a time of tight budgets and increasing energy costs, policies that drive efficiency can generate new jobs while allowing residents and businesses to productively invest money they would otherwise spend on energy costs. One recent study found homeowners would save $33 billion in energy costs if all homes were sealed in line with the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code.
State Building Energy Codes
Most states adopt versions of model building energy codes, which are updated every few years by the various code organizations that produce them. The most common building energy codes are the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Both codes are updated every three years; the most recent codes are ASHRAE 90.1-2010 and the 2012 IECC. Another common code is the International Resident Code (IRC) published by the International Code Council (ICC). The ICC’s International Building Code (IBC) is also utilized by several states, territories and the Washington, D.C. These codes are becoming increasingly more efficient with each update. The U.S. Department of Energy found that annual energy costs for residential buildings decreased by 32 percent for buildings that meet the 2012 IECC model energy code, as compared to the 2006 IECC. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, buildings operating with the 1989 ASHRAE Standard 90.1 consume 45 percent more energy than buildings with the 2010 Standard 90.1. Other states, such as California, have developed a unique code to better tailor building energy codes to a state’s energy efficiency goals rather than use a model building energy code. Building energy codes apply to new buildings and often major renovations, depending on the jurisdiction.
Policies that include education, training and enforcement help states fully realize the benefits of building energy codes. Programs may focus on educating the public on the importance of building energy codes or training code officials and building professionals on new requirements. Enforcement programs, which can include the assistance of utilities, ensure building professionals comply with requirements and state and local officials verify compliance. One study found that every $1 spent on compliance saved customers $6 in energy expenses.
Currently, 44 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have mandated state building energy codes for commercial buildings. Forty-three states, Washington, D.C., Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have mandated state building energy codes for residential buildings. California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington have adopted the most recent commercial and residential building energy codes—either ASHRAE 90.1-2010 or 2012 IECC. Mississippi and Oregon have adopted the most recent commercial building energy codes. Arizona has voluntary energy codes, while Mississippi has voluntary codes just for residential buildings. Five states do not have building energy codes: Alaska, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Energy Efficiency Requirements for Public Buildings
An increasing number of states are adopting energy efficiency mandates for public buildings through legislation or executive order. Forty-seven states have energy efficiency requirements for state-owned or funded public buildings that go beyond the state energy code. Efforts are varied and include specific savings targets and requirements to meet efficiency standards, such as LEED Silver, for new or renovated facilities. Common standards include those established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air‑Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), as well as U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), Green Globes and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR. The LEED Silver certification, required in 16 states, is the most common mandate for public buildings. However, half of those states allow the two-globe equivalent of Green Globes in lieu of LEED Silver certification. A majority of states have a requirement that state buildings must achieve any level of LEED or Green Globes standards, ENERGY STAR standards or the ASHRAE 90.1 or IECC model building energy codes. Requirements generally apply to new construction and significant renovations. States may differentiate between state-owned facilities and state-funded facilities.
The map below displays states with energy efficiency mandates for state buildings. At least four states—Delaware, Massachusetts, Nevada and Virginia—have mandates only for executive branch state buildings. Alaska has no energy efficiency mandate for state buildings, although the state has requirements for certain public and publicly funded buildings. Pennsylvania and Vermont have energy efficiency mandates for state buildings without specific standards or targets.
Click here to view a full report of Energy Efficiency Mandates for Public Buildings
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Beyond Energy Codes
While building energy codes requiring energy efficiency are becoming increasingly common, several states are requiring efficiency “beyond code.” EPA ENERGY STAR, Green Globes and the LEED rating systems mentioned above typically exceed common code requirements. Vermont House bill 533 requires the Department of Buildings and General Services to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy sources in any new building or major renovation project that is in excess of $250,000, unless a lifecycle cost analysis demonstrates that the investment cannot be recouped or there are limitations on siting. Illinois House bill 1013 requires all new state-funded construction or major renovations to seek LEED, Green Globes or an equivalent certification that goes beyond model building energy code requirements.
Another initiative, zero net energy building, goes far beyond energy code requirements with the concept that a building’s energy footprint be either nonexistent or positive—all energy is used efficiently and on-site renewable energy generation offsets energy consumption. In the 2013 legislative session, three states considered legislation on zero net energy buildings. A pending California bill, CA A 627, would require state agencies to consider net zero energy buildings when evaluating construction of new buildings. California’s Title 24 already requires new residential construction to be zero net energy by 2020 while new commercial buildings must reach this target by 2030. Massachusetts Senate bill 1587 (pending) would establish a net zero energy building standard for new residential and commercial construction and a North Carolina pending bill, NC S 474, would require net zero energy school facilities. Historically, Hawaii has enacted legislation regarding net zero buildings, while California, Hawaii and Wisconsin have considered legislation that has not passed.
The U.S. Department of Energy has published a report, "Going Beyond Code," for states and localities with specific policy examples.
Benchmarking and Rating Systems
Energy benchmarking can increase awareness of energy use, lead to improved energy efficiency and increase the value of a building. Benchmarking tracks a building’s energy and water use, making it possible to compare a building’s performance against similar buildings. Assessing and labeling a building’s performance increases the value of energy efficiency upgrades for buyers, lessees and lenders. Certifying a building as highly efficient has been shown to increase occupancy or ownership rates. Benchmarking uses either an energy efficiency rating system or a building rating system. Efficiency rating systems include the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, the Core Performance Guide and the Home Energy Rating System. Building rating systems include ASHRAE, Green Globes, LEED, ICC, the Green Point Rating System or the National Association of Home Builder’s Green Guidelines. Disclosure requirements ensure that energy information is shared by building owners or sellers to prospective buyers, lessees and lenders.
For example, Kansas included benchmarking requirements in their 2007 State Energy Plan that requires real estate agents to disclose energy efficiency information on all new houses at the time of listing and closing. The plan states: “Having energy efficiency information available to prospective buyers at listing is comparable to having mileage rating stickers when prospective buyers look at new cars.” A specific form summarizing the efficiency of a home’s envelope and mechanical system was included in the energy plan; counties and municipalities are responsible for training and enforcement. Washington Senate bill 5854 from 2009 requires disclosure of ENERGY STAR benchmarking data for commercial buildings to prospective buyers, lessees or lenders. Utilities are required to maintain records of energy consumption and participate in the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Management program. A 2010 Illinois Senate bill, 2810, states that a unit of local government or a school district may not withhold information regarding the facility’s energy consumption. A 2011 South Dakota bill, Senate bill 94, requires homebuilders to complete an energy efficiency disclosure statement declaring if the home meets 2009 IECC requirements or contains ENERGY STAR appliances.
Multiple localities and Washington, D.C., mandate benchmarking: Austin, Texas; Boston; New York City; San Francisco; and Seattle. Localities may mandate disclosure via a public website, public display in the buildings or notification to prospective buyers, lessees or lenders.
The following tables provide summaries of enacted legislation from the 2013 and 2012 sessions.
Table 1: Enacted 2013 Efficient Building Legislation
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Table 2: Enacted 2012 Efficient Building Legislation
- U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Energy Codes Program. (Washington, D.C., DOE, 2013).
- U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Going Beyond Code. (Washington, D.C., DOE, 2011).
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9, Green Building: Building and Energy Codes. (Washington, D.C., EPA, 2013).