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The “Moon Shot” for Building Energy Performance
goals have been set and the bar is high, as we enter a
transitional period where voluntary actions related to building energy
performance will soon be mandatory.
nothing like an audacious challenge and one is certainly being
set out for building energy performance. The test for building owners,
facility managers, designers and contractors will be to drastically
reduced energy consumption in their buildings. We’re not talking about
15% or even a 30% reduction in energy consumption; something we may be
able to attain and be satisfied with in the here and now. The coming
mandates and regulations, as well as the softer policies and
initiatives, could require 60% or 70% energy consumption reduction and
eventually net-zero buildings with the significant use of renewable
energy. The teeth in this challenge will bite down hard,
primarily in new construction codes which are already in the pipeline,
not to mention the series of new government initiatives and imperatives
that have been set forth by industry groups. What follows is a
recap and assessment of some the upcoming mandates and initiatives and
how they may affect the marketplace.
The International Code Council (ICC) – The ICC is the most serious of the efforts. They develop building codes for a variety of building types, addressing fire, plumbing, energy conservation, mechanical systems, zoning, etc. While the codes are “models”, they are widely adopted and used as mandates and regulations for governmental authorities. In the US most every city, county and state uses some ICC codes as the basis of their construction codes. In addition, ICC codes are used by the US federal government and are a reference for other countries around the world. Therefore ICC activity translates into building codes and regulations adopted around the world.
The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is an example of their reach. In 1998 the ICC produced the IECC which set requirements for the “effective use of energy” in residential and commercial buildings. Almost 40 US states have adopted the IECC as their mandatory state code. (Some states don’t have mandatory codes, some modified the IECC and some developed their own code.) While an important initiative, many of the adopted energy codes establish legal minimums for some, but not all energy-related features, and have been criticized for “gaps” in the general approach.
For the last two years ICC has been developing a new code, the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), focusing on new and existing commercial buildings to address green building design and performance much more comprehensively. The idea as stated by ICC is to move from voluntary green building programs and rating systems to a mandatory basis: “the IGCC is poised to produce environmental benefits on a massive scale: a scale impossible to attain with purely voluntary green building programs and rating systems”. This effort by ICC has been sponsored by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the American Institute of Architects, with coordination by the US Green Building Council, ASHRAE, IES and the Green Building Initiative (The Green Globe rating system). The First Edition of the IGCC is scheduled to be published in March 2012. The IGCC drafts allow jurisdictions the latitude to identify specific requirements for energy, water, natural resources and material conservation, but at the same time reduce the choices for building designers, owners and contractors.
Central to the enforcement of the Green Construction Code is a metric referred to as Total Annual Net Energy Use (TANEU). TANEU is basically a ratio of the energy performance of the proposed design (minus energy savings from renewable energy on site and any waste energy recovered on site from the chiller plant or cogeneration) to the energy performance of a standard reference design. If you use the year 2009 for a baseline of 100, the code may require a TANEU of 77% or 65% or whatever the jurisdiction decides.
IGCC essentially takes voluntary rating systems such as LEED and
Green Globe together with industry best practices and crafts it into
regulations aimed at building energy and sustainability performance.
After the implementation of the IGCC via local construction codes it
will be interesting to see if more buildings will become LEED certified
since building owners and designers will be mandated to follow a
process similar to the rating system, or whether there will be less
demand for LEED certification since most buildings will have to follow
similar mandates anyway.
2030 Challenge – Architecture 2030 is a non-profit,
non-partisan and independent organization with support from and
coordination with AIA, ASHRAE, IES, USGBC, the US Department of Energy
and many other groups and associations. The 2030 Challenge establishes
a goal of "zero net energy" buildings by the year 2030. The
agreement specified energy performance targets beginning with an
immediate reduction of 50 percent in energy use for all new buildings.
This target increases rapidly with a 60 percent reduction in 2010,
adding an additional 10 percent reduction every five years, until
carbon neutral buildings are the norm by 2030. While nothing here is
mandated, you have the major industry groups (AIA, ASHRAE, USGBC, IES
the US government) involved and committed, with their membership of
architects and engineers adhering and designing to the policies and
initiatives of their organizations.
President’s Climate Commitment – This is a more narrow initiative and an example of executive policy that will affect energy performance in a particular sector, in this case higher education. It is a program American university and college presidents started in 2006 that “recognizes the need to reduce the global emission of greenhouse gases by 80% by mid-century at the latest.” Their commitment is fairly broad; new construction meeting a minimum of LEED Silver certification, purchasing appliances that are Energy Star certified, offsetting the greenhouse gas emission of travel, promoting public transportation, participating in waste minimization, and finally probably the most difficult commitment, that is the goal of purchasing or producing 15% of the institution’s electric consumption from renewable sources. While none of this is mandatory it does set policy for building energy performance higher education institutions.
The end game here of the mandates, policies and initiatives and the severe reduction of building energy consumption is to demonstrate net-zero buildings (however defined) by 2025, followed by substantial deployment of such buildings by 2030, all done in concert with substantial use of renewable energy. Institutions such as the US Department of Energy and ASHRAE are supporting the effort with ASHRAE developing the tools necessary to design, build and operate net-zero energy buildings. Overall, the current number of net-zero buildings is minimal, many are associated with environmental or academic organizations not commercial buildings, and the square footage of the average net zero facility is relatively small.
The challenge of drastic reductions of building energy consumption and widespread deployment of net zero buildings is similar to the goal of landing a man on the Moon that was made 49 years ago; it has broad support, there is awareness that not all the technologies required are developed or even identified, there’s a huge need and opportunity for innovative engineering, and there are eventual benefits to economies and to the world in general. In many ways however, the challenge for building energy performance is much more difficult than the Moon shot; rather than one focused government agency leading the effort, reducing energy consumption in buildings will involve of millions of individuals. The goals have been set and the bar is high, as we enter a transitional period where voluntary actions related to building energy performance will soon be mandatory.
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