Buildings That Meet the Energy Code Are Better Buildings

July 24, 2013 | Ryan Meres

In support of the development, adoption, and enforcement of building energy codes, the energy savings to the homeowner are constantly touted as a benefit. Debate centers on the upfront cost of building to higher standards vs. how quickly it can be recouped in energy savings. The obvious benefit of living in a new home built in compliance with current energy codes is lower utility bills. The less obvious benefit, which occasionally comes up, is that an energy code compliant home is one that is safer, more resilient, and has better indoor air quality.

Did you know that an energy code compliant home may have:

  • Better indoor air quality, thanks to a well-sealed building envelope that lowers the risk of contaminants and pollutants entering the home through air leaks;
  • A lower potential for costly repairs due to unhealthy moisture levels (which cause mold and rot), thanks to air sealing and equipment sizing requirements in the energy code;
  • Reduced water use because of hot water piping insulation, which keeps water hotter for longer and avoids having to constantly wait for hot water to get to the tap;
  • And a reduced likelihood of ice dams–one of the top causes of homeowners insurance claims in northern climates?

Complying with energy codes has lasting positive impacts for building occupants, and provisions within the energy code touch most aspects of residential construction. As with any code, good workmanship and attention to detail are necessary to ensure that efficiency features are installed properly, so inhabitants can realize their full benefits.

Strong building energy codes are one of the most effective tools for ensuring that buildings are energy efficient, have low lifetime operational costs, and maintain healthy indoor environments. Significant efforts have been made to enhance energy codes and bolster adoption rates in recent years, but there’s been a historic lack of training, outreach, implementation, and enforcement. Given these obstacles, energy code compliance levels across the country are too low, and buildings are using more energy than they were designed to.

A new report by IMT and Britt/Makela Group describes the building systems and potential problems that the energy code addresses, such as ice dams, air leaks, mold, and mildew. Buildings that meet the energy code are more likely to keep these problems at bay. That makes them more comfortable, more affordable to maintain, and higher quality. Improving energy code compliance nationwide would lead to major reductions in construction defects and insurance claims.

You can read the new report in our Resource Library, and also check out the Standard Bearers award, which IMT and the Global Buildings Performance Network (GBPN) grant annually to local jurisdictions and officials that are making strides in improving compliance. The deadline for the 2013 award is August 30.

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Ryan Meres

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