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 substandard living and working conditions by setting minimum standards for acceptable practice. Energy codes address increasing the energy efficiency of building systems.
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 common method is the prescriptive approach, in which the code stipulates the stringency of the materials and equipment 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.
Where did they come from?
In the United States, national model energy codes were created 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. Since then, energy codes have undergone significant improvements. The 1992 Energy Policy Act ("EPAct") mandated that all states must review and consider adopting the national model energy standard. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 specified the most current model energy codes at the time of its passage (2004 IECC supplement, ASHRAE 90.1-2004). Today, ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007 and the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) are the national model energy codes, and each is updated on a three-year cycle.
The following are some of our related educational documents:
Why Adopt Energy Codes?
Why Energy Codes Matter - What Advocates Need to Know
Why Energy Codes Matter - What Policymakers Need to Know
Why Energy Codes Matter - What Consumers Need to Know
Codes and Voluntary Programs
Helpful Tips for Energy Code Compliance
Building Energy Codes 101 - An Introduction (from DOE EERE)