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Construction codes in the Northeast: myths and realities of energy code adoption and the economic effects (2018 update)

13 Jul 2018

Residential and commercial buildings are among the largest users of energy in the United States, accounting for approximately 51 percent of all energy consumption in 2017. Because this represents such a significant portion of our energy use, policies have been put into place that govern the way buildings and homes use energy. Building energy codes act as the “floor”, or minimum level of efficiency, at which new buildings or renovations can be constructed.

Building energy codes are a cost-effective way to achieve large scale energy savings while ensuring consumer protection. The energy efficiency of a building is not visible to most buyers, so codes are a way of ensuring consistency in construction and design practices. This translates into more energy efficient buildings, which means affordable and manageable energy bills for customers. Outreach and innovation can be used to fill existing gaps in energy code compliance, and newer energy codes can be implemented to capture lasting energy savings. To achieve even greater energy efficiency, states can adopt a "stretch" energy code to supplement their base building energy code, thereby giving communities the option to enforce a code that is typically 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than the state’s base code. These stretch codes also help inform the development of new versions of national model energy codes and standards.

Today’s building codes are about 30 percent more efficient than they were 10 years ago. By adopting and complying with these more efficient energy codes, states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic will steadily move towards a future where all new buildings are zero energy buildings.

This report analyzes data that reflects the number of commercial and residential permits each year, creating a picture of the construction landscape based on county and square footage. Also included are projections of potential energy cost savings and carbon emissions savings potentials if all states in the Northeast Energy Efficient Partnerships (NEEP) region were to implement the newest energy codes from their previous or current codes. These savings are significant and can point out the importance of energy codes as a tool for reducing energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy costs for building owners and occupants.

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