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The Online Code Environment and Advocacy Network

ENERGY CODES 101


What are energy codes?
Energy Codes are a subset of a broader collection of written
legal requirements known as building codes, which govern
the design and construction of residential and commercial
structures. Building codes protect individuals from substan-
dard living and working conditions by setting minimum stan-
dards for acceptable practice. Energy codes address increas-
ing the energy efficiency of building systems.
Where did they come from?
Courtesy of DOE-NREL, Credit--Warren Gretz
In the United States, national model energy codes were cre-
ated in response to the energy and economic crises of the 1970s. In 1978, Congress passed legislation requiring
states to initiate energy efficiency standards for new buildings. The first national codes were the American Society
of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 90-77 and the Model Energy Code (MEC) 1983.
Since then, energy codes have undergone significant improvements, particularly in the last decade. Today, ASH-
RAE Standard 90.1-2007 and the 2009 IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) are the national model
codes, and each is updated on a three-year cycle.
How do they work?
Energy codes reference areas of construction such as wall and ceiling insulation, window and door specifications,
HVAC equipment efficiency, and lighting fixtures. Usually, there are two methods for compliance. The most com-
mon method is the prescriptive approach, in which the code stipulates the stringency of the materials and equip-
ment the builder must use. For the performance approach, the code allocates a total allowable energy use for a
building, and the builder can choose the materials and equipment that will meet this target.
Why adopt them?
In the United States, buildings use one third of our total energy and two-thirds of our electricity. By reducing en-
ergy demand, energy codes help protect occupants’ long-term interests and provide substantial benefits for soci-
ety, such as decreased pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and increased national energy security and utility
system reliability. Moreover, they reduce energy bills and create a more comfortable indoor environment.
How can BCAP help?
Energy codes are extremely technical and complex. Determining how to use them effectively to achieve a variety
of national, state and local goals can be daunting. As a non-profit advocacy organization with 15 years of energy
code adoption and implementation expertise, we can develop a comprehensive energy code program that lever-
ages existing technical and advocacy resources, tailored to fit your government’s unique needs. BCAP can help you
improve the effectiveness of your code programs and ensure their long-term sustainability.
For more information, please visit us at: www.bcap-ocean.org

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