Where are energy codes and standards going?
View the full story, including all images and figures, in our monthly digital edition
With the current worldwide focus on carbon emissions, and the fact that buildings account for 40% of U.S. domestic energy use, it is no surprise that increased attention is being paid to advancing building energy standards and codes. Currently ASHRAE is working on the 2010 edition of Standard 90.1 , which is targeted for a 30% energy savings relative to the 2004 edition of the standard. In parallel with this effort ASHRAE is also completing a new Standard 189.1 , which will be the first consensus green standard in the country. This standard is intended to meet the needs of jurisdictions looking to go beyond the minimum requirements.
Energy standards developed by organizations like ASHRAE are subsequently incorporated into model codes by code organizations like the International Code Council and NFPA , usually by reference, which can then be directly adopted by local code jurisdictions. This process combines the credibility of standards developed by a balanced committee of experts using an open, transparent, consensus process with the administrative provisions of model codes to provide a robust solution for code bodies.
Future versions of energy standards are likely to explore requirements for heating and cooling equipment efficiencies that vary by climate region. This would more correctly reflect the economics of the application of these types of equipment in colder and warmer climates. As other loads are reduced in buildings, plug loads become one of the more significant energy users, and will likely be targeted in the future as well. Efficiencies for fractional horsepower motors, strategies for reducing fan horsepower, and system selection also may be considered in achieving greater energy savings.
Some of the areas that have proven to be difficult for standards and codes to address are requirements for O&M and post-occupancy commissioning. While it is well-known that both of these areas represent opportunities for energy savings, the inability of code officials to inspect for their “presence” prior to issuing the certificate of occupancy generally precludes them from requirements in the standards and codes.
To make energy standards and codes more effective and useful, they should be accompanied by educational programs and supporting tools that facilitate their application. Language should be reviewed for clarity and simplicity and revised if necessary. Interpretations of requirements should be posted by code bodies to ensure consistency of enforcement of the code. User's manuals should be prepared to provide examples of proper application of the code provisions as well as explain the basis for those code provisions. Where possible, codes also should reference performance and rating standards as well as certification programs to ensure delivered performance of the code requirements.
Energy standards and codes are likely to become more stringent in the future to meet the needs of the marketplace and the changing economics of energy supply, but they will always represent the minimum level of efficiency that jurisdictions choose to require. However, they are not intended to be a substitute for good judgment and good design practice.
Jarnagin is a long-time ASHRAE member and current ASHRAE Society Treasurer. Jarnagin has served ASHRAE in a variety of roles, including chairing ASHRAE 90.1 during development of the 1999 standard. He also has served on the ASHRAE Board as a Director at Large and as a Society Vice President.