While they may not be exciting, standards do as much for progress as technological innovations. In the last few years, design advances, popular support and political rhetoric have combined to make building energy efficiency a sustainable energy force as compelling as renewable power or electric vehicles.


Recently, industry stakeholders gave the movement their own seal of approval. In mid-October, the International Code Council (ICC) convened in Atlantic City, N.J., and approved the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which contains several new provisions that will encourage even more efficiency. The various industry groups that participated in the process lauded these gains.


The New Buildings Institute (NBI) called the code “the most significant code revisions for energy consumption of existing buildings since the 1970s.” The NBI highlighted several provisions in giving out its praise. In the category of lighting, the NBI pointed to the expansion of mandatory requirements for the installation of occupancy sensors and daylighting controls to include such spaces as warehouses and lounge rooms, which were not included in the previous versions. The NBI also supported changes that will require fault detection and diagnostic reporting systems in commercial rooftop HVAC systems, addressing high failure rates.


The Leading Builders of America, the Institute for Market Transformation and the Natural Resources Defense Council proposed a measure that was ultimately adopted, giving builders an alternative compliance method. Builders may use a third-party inspection to assess a home’s efficiency using an energy rating index (ERI), such as the HERS index. Proponents of this measure argue that it helps reduce the cost of efficiency measures by giving builders greater flexibility.


According to the Green Building Council, buildings account for about 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption, and these codes intend to reduce that amount. The IECC is updated every three years, and the previous two code updates, in 2009 and 2012, have been credited with achieving a combined total of 30 percent energy savings from the previous version, which was adopted in 2006.