Alabama Residential Energy Code Field Study: Baseline Report

The Alabama Residential Energy Code Field Study: Baseline Report identifies opportunities to reduce homeowner utility bills in residential single-family new construction in Alabama by increasing compliance with the state energy code. The study was initiated in March 2014, and continued through May 2014. During this period, research teams visited 134 homes during various stages of construction, resulting in a substantial data set based on observations made directly in the field.

Analysis of the data has led to a better understanding of the energy features present in homes, and indicates nearly $1.3 million in potential savings per year to Alabama homeowners that could result from increased code compliance. Public and private entities within the state can use this information to justify and catalyze future investments in energy code training and related energy efficiency programs.

The project team was led by IMT with support from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), Cadmus, the Institute for Building Technology and Safety and Calhoun Community College. The team applied a methodology prescribed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which was based on collecting information for the energy code-required building components with the largest direct impact on energy consumption. These key items are a focal point of the study, and in turn drive the analysis and savings estimates. The project team implemented a customized sampling plan representative of new construction within the state, which was originally developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and then vetted through public meetings with key stakeholders in Alabama.

Following data collection, PNNL conducted three stages of analysis on the resulting data set. The first stage identified compliance trends within the state based on the distributions observed in the field for each key item. The second modeled energy consumption of the homes observed in the field relative to what would be expected if sampled homes just met minimum code requirements. The third stage then calculated the potential energy savings, consumer cost savings, and avoided carbon emissions associated with increased code compliance. Together, these findings provide valuable insight on challenges facing energy code implementation and enforcement, and are intended to inform future energy code education, training and outreach activities.