Efficient Buildings Update 2013

Jocelyn Durkay 11/19/2013

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.

50-state map of commercial energy codes

50-state residential building energy codes

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

50-state energy efficiency requirements for public buildings

Note: information unavailable for territories

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. For an update on 2014 state action, please visit our 2014 Energy Efficiency Legislative Update.

Table 1: Enacted 2013 Efficient Building Legislation

For an update on 2015 state action, please visit our 2015 Energy Efficiency Legislative Update. For an update on 2014 state action, please visit our 2014 Energy Efficiency Legislative Update.

The box allows you to conduct a full text search or type the state name.


Bill or Resolution



AR S 340

Amends the Guaranteed Energy Cost Savings Act to allow state agencies to use maintenance and operations appropriations for debt service related to a guaranteed energy cost savings contract.


CA A 221

Revises the definition of recycled concrete in existing law to additionally include, as one of certain specifications, the California Green Building Standards Code.


CA A 341

Requires the Building Standards Commission and agencies that propose green building standards to allow for input by other state agencies that have expertise in green building subject areas. Requires the process by which these state agencies shall submit suggested changes to be adopted as administrative regulations that include certain elements. Authorizes the expenditure of certain funds for updating of green building standards, a guideline update and training for local building officials.


C A A 628

Authorizes the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District and specified harbor and port districts, jointly with an electrical corporation, gas corporation, community choice aggregator or publicly owned electric or gas utility serving the district, to prepare one or more energy management plans to reduce air emissions and promote economic development through the addition of new business and the retention of existing businesses in the district. Also includes provisions on public education on the initiative.


CT H 6524

Allows for less frequent revisions to the State Building Code and requires building officials to ensure that inspections are done by the appropriate licensed inspectors.



Establishes a “Green and Better Building Advisory Committee.”


GA HR 704

Encourages statewide participation in Green Apple Day of Service presented by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council.


IL H 3

Amends the School Code and authorizes the school board power to levy a tax or to borrow money and issue bonds for fire prevention, safety, energy conservation, disabled accessibility, school security and specified repair purposes.

  IL S 1595; to Governor Creates exemptions to existing statutes that require all new school construction projects to be either LEED or Green Globes certified. Schools of a certain size, renovation projects that are less that 40% of the replacement cost and other circumstances are exempt.


KY HR 69

Promotes the benefits of green schools.


ME S 64

Amends provisions regarding energy efficiency building performance standards to reflect the changes made by the enactment of the state Uniform Building and Energy Code. Directs the Public Utilities Commission to repeal rules that established the standards that comprised the state Model Building Energy Code.


MD H 637

Authorizes the National Capital Park and Planning Commission to request a waiver from high performance building standards for a county if such standards are not practical. Excludes buildings of historical interest and provides for disclosure of waivers.


MS H 1266

Requires each major facility project to be designed and constructed to meet or exceed certain energy standards of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) or any more stringent code adopted by the Department of Finance and Administration, Bureau of Building, Grounds and Real Property Management.


MS H 1281

Revises the energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings. States that the Mississippi Development Authority shall not have enforcement authority over this section of law concerning energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings.

North Carolina

NC H 120

Requires approval from the State Building Code Council before a unit of local government may require residential building inspections in addition to those required by the building code. Exempts cable television equipment installation from building code requirements. Revises the plumbing code, the energy code, the fuel gas code, the mechanical code and the electrical code.


NV A 33

Relates to the abatement of certain property taxes for the construction of a building or other structure that meets certain energy efficiency standards under the Green Building System, or renovation by certain manufacturers of existing buildings or other structures. Requires that the Rating System must include standards equivalent to those of the LEED system. Repeals provisions relating to abatement for manufacturers. Prohibits certain partial abatements.

New York

NY A 2080

Amends the Real Property Tax Law as it relates to exemptions for improvements to real property meeting certification standards for green buildings. Authorizes a municipality to establish a maximum exemption amount in its local law, ordinance or resolution.


NY S 1186 (Vetoed by Governor)

Amends appliance and equipment energy efficiency standards. Requires new or replacement consumer audio and video products purchased by or for the state or its agencies to meet or exceed certain requirements, including the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) for environmental performance and the Energy Star standard. Allows an impact study and addresses disposition of electronic equipment that has reached the end of its useful life.


OK H 1990

Creates the Public Building Construction and Planning Act. Creates the Department of Real Estate Services and provides for procurement actions for agencies and exceptions for bids and notices. Modifies the State Construction Revolving Fund. Authorizes statewide contracts for managed construction services.


OR H 2005

Requires the director of Department of Consumer and Business Services to adopt amendments to the state building code establishing mechanical insulation standards.


OR H 2801

Authorizes public purpose charge moneys of electric utilities invested on cost-effective local energy conservation that involve updating energy efficiency of a residential or nonresidential building to be used for purpose of conducting whole building assessment of energy efficiency of building. Addresses training requirements for home energy assessors and the education of state licensed or certified appraisers.


OR H 3169

Revises a requirement that a contracting agency dedicate a certain amount of the contract price toward including green energy technology in public buildings. Authorizes that a contracting agency may use energy from green energy technology located away from the site of a public building if green energy technology meets certain qualifications and requires a geothermal cost comparison.


TN H 1268

Encourages the commission to prescribe high performance building requirements and other standards and promulgate rules, which meet or exceed the 2005 Sustainable Design Guidelines that the commission implemented.


TX HR 1617

Commends the Texas chapters of the U.S. Green Building Council for promoting green building practices.


UT H 176

Modifies the Industrial Facilities and Development Act by adding energy related upgrades to qualified projects for economic growth. Provides that an energy efficiency upgrade project and renewable energy system project are included as projects under the Act. Allows bond proceeds to be used to pay for or to reimburse a user as well as a lender for the costs of a project.


UT H 202

Amends the State Construction Code. Adopts the 2012 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code and modifies certain provisions of the code. Modifies certain energy provisions of the International Residential Code; provides for insulation and fenestration requirements.


UT H 310

Modifies the State Construction Code, adopts the 2012 edition of certain nationally recognized building codes, modifies certain statewide amendments to the State Construction Code, repeals certain local amendments to the State Construction Code, relates to definitions for an ambulatory surgical center, child care center, assisted living facilities, foster care facilities, sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, wheelchair lifts, carbon monoxide alarms, foundations, plumbing, snow loads and fire escape plans.


VT H 107

Requires hospitals to present an energy efficiency action plan to the Green Mountain Care Board by July 2014. The action plan shall include specific measures to be undertaken which may include energy audits, periodic benchmarking to track performance over time and energy savings goals.


VT H 533

Requires the Department of Buildings and General Services to incorporate the use of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and thermal energy conservation in any new building construction or major renovation project in excess of $250,000.00 unless a life cycle cost analysis demonstrates that the investment cannot be recouped or there are limitations on siting.

Puerto Rico

PR HR 476

Orders an investigation by the House Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs on the implementation of Law 229 of 2008, known as the Green Building Law, in order to make recommendations for legislative and executive action achieve full compliance with such act.

Table 2: Enacted 2012 Efficient Building Legislation


Bill or Resolution



IL HR 906

Encourages all schools within the state to support Green Apple, the United States Green Building Council's initiative to make schools more environmentally friendly.


IL S 3453

Amends the State Finance Act and the Public Utilities Act. Creates the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards Fund and provides that all moneys received by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity under specified provisions of the Public Utilities Act related to energy efficiency shall be deposited into the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards Fund and shall be used only for the purposes of the Public Utilities Act. Relates to payments for costs relating to the energy efficiency measures.


IL S 3724

Amends the Energy Efficient Building Act and provides that the Capital Development Board shall review and adopt the latest published edition of the International Energy Conservation Code within a specified time period following its publication. Requires the state to hold trainings for buildings, designers, engineers and architects on the new energy code


LA S 538

Amends and reenacts the Commercial Building Energy Conservation Code. Adopts the 2009 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1-2007.


MD H 158

Alters the definition of high performance building for purposes of the high performance building tax credit to include a residential building that achieves at least a silver rating according to the International Code Council's 700 National Green Building Standards.


MD S 869

Requires that guest rooms in newly constructed hotels be equipped with a device that turns off light fixtures after a specified period of time. Authorizes the required device to control heating, ventilation or air conditioning default settings. Requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to adopt specified provisions as a part of the Maryland Building Performance Standards.

New York

NY A 9103

Relates to a partial real property tax exemption for new residential construction or renovation of vacant residential structures in cities with a certain population. Provides an enhancement for new construction or renovation based on a certification of LEED standards.


NY S 1462

Authorizes a municipal corporation to provide a real property tax exemption for improvements to real property meeting LEED certification standards for green buildings.

South Carolina

SC H 4639

Adopts the 2009 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code as the energy standard.



Encourages the Utah State Board of Education to consider the broader application of the design and construction practices for green schools, both for new construction and major renovation projects undertaken with school district funds. Encourages school districts to consider seeking application for certification of green schools under the United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system (LEED).


VA H 1167

Requires executive branch agencies and institutions entering the design phase for construction of a new building greater than 5,000 gross square feet in size, or renovating such a building where the cost of renovation exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building, to conform to Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards developed by the Department of General Services.


VA S 160

Requires executive branch agencies and institutions entering the design phase for construction of a new building greater than 5,000 gross square feet in size, or renovating such a building where the cost of renovation exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building, to conform to Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards developed by the Department of General Services.

West Virginia

WV S 76

Requires new facility projects of public agencies and projects receiving state funds to be designed and constructed to comply with the International Energy Conservation Code and other specified codes. Sets standards for projects using federal funding.