Designing to Meet and Exceed the New Energy Codes


Designing to Meet and Exceed the New Energy Codes

Presented on November 17, 2023 by Elizabeth Gillmor, President and Founder of Energetics Consulting Engineers, LLC, at ENGAGE 2023 Practice + Design Conference.

Ms. Gillmor provided important information about current and upcoming energy codes that impact the design and operation of new and existing buildings throughout the state of Colorado. She reviewed the latest changes in the energy codes, the impact of energy codes on climate change, the different compliance paths for meeting energy code requirements, and what to look out for during design and construction phases. She included valuable guidelines and resources to help architects succeed in conforming to the state’s energy codes. 

Both new and existing commercial and residential projects are affected by the changing energy codes, so staying current on state and local energy code requirements and amendments is important. Ms. Gillmor led attendees through state and local commercial and residential energy code requirements and compliance paths, including the variety of prescriptive and performance methods, and the residential ERI Method. 

Attendees also learned about 2021 IECC Commercial C406 Efficiency Points, Residential R408 Efficiency Points, and EUI Targets. The “Colorado Model Electric Ready and Solar Ready Code” that became available in July 2023 will start coming into play in 2024 as jurisdictions adopt new codes. Three main parts of Colorado’s new code requirements are requiring buildings to be electric ready and solar ready, and provide electric vehicle charging stations. She also presented how one may avoid some of the electric ready requirements for large commercial buildings that demonstrate a substantial cost differential (>1% MEP costs).

Electric power, transportation, and buildings are the top three contributors to carbon emissions. Low emissions electricity is coming fast as Xcel Energy works on meeting 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. Electric energy is the only path to zero emissions, and designing for all-electric or even electric ready buildings gets more fuel uses on an ever-improving grid. The more building electrification one includes in a project, the easier it is for a project to comply with the codes. Some requirements include meeting certain energy efficiency requirements by a certain date, so one must pay attention to upcoming deadlines to implement changes early enough to meet those deadlines.

Ms. Gilmor presented how to conform to energy code requirements successfully and efficiently during the SD and DD phases, permitting phase, and construction phase. She encouraged attendees to start discussions early with the design team about a project’s energy code requirements and other sustainability goals to evaluate which compliance path is best, identify potential architectural and structural impacts, plan for compliance, and make the topic a part of regular project meetings. If a design team has a good early plan, the permitting process is much easier. 

Prior to submitting for permitting, it is important to check the design and specifications for compliance with new energy code requirements. One needs to keep energy compliance in mind during the construction phase as well, to protect the critical elements of compliance during submittal review and coordinate required testing and inspections with the contractor. For example, the 2021 IECC and beyond requires air leakage testing for almost all building types, commercial and residential. 

A building’s size, type, age, and jurisdiction in which it resides all influence which energy code requirements apply to a project. It is important for architects to stay up to date on energy code changes and new requirements as they frequently change and improve. To design a building efficiently, one must identify all energy code requirements early in the design process to understand which requirements could impact the design and construction of a building and its systems. 

AIA_Design_Conference_2023-The_Unfound_Door-8906 |
Gillmor-Presentation |

About the Author

Jennifer Seely, AIA

Ms. Seely has more than 20 years of experience in architectural design, assessment, and investigation of buildings and the properties that surround them. She has been involved in the design, construction, repair and investigation of projects ranging from large commercial buildings to small steel and glass structures. She brought her design and investigative experience to Martin/Martin, Inc. in October of 2021 where she utilizes her expertise for peer review, design assist, repair design, forensic assessment, and architectural consulting on a wide variety of project types and sizes.

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