Buildings continue to be one of the largest users of energy in the United States, accounting for approximately 41 percent of all energy consumption, 72 percent of electricity usage, and over one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. Because this represents such a significant portion of our energy use, policy must govern the way and extent to which buildings use energy. Building energy codes dictate the minimum energy efficiency for new building construction and existing building alteration. In this way, energy codes represent the “floor”—the least efficient buildings that can be built by law. NEEP helps to raise this floor, in conjunction with its other buildings initiatives, to advance the market towards zero energy buildings.
Building energy codes present one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing energy consumption in new construction and substantial building renovation. 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 for states to adopt.
NEEP helps the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic reduce its energy use and carbon emissions by providing states with resources to develop, implement, and comply with building energy codes. To assist states and local governments in this effort, NEEP’s Model Progressive Building Energy Codes Policy delineates comprehensive measures to maximize the energy savings potential of building energy codes throughout the region. NEEP has also developed a methodology for Attributing Building Energy Code Savings to Energy Efficiency Programs for utility program administrators. Additionally, NEEP facilitates a Regional Building Energy Codes Working Group and oversees several diverse energy code stakeholder groups in the region.
To reduce the impacts of climate change, states and communities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region are adopting goals to aggressively cut carbon emissions and energy use between the years 2020 to 2050. Building energy codes – as well as related training and support – are critical tools to achieving carbon and energy reductions as they drive higher performance building practices throughout the construction industry, influencing and ultimately defining standard practice. In 2017, NEEP released the report "Building Energy Codes for a Carbon Constrained Era - A Toolkit of Strategies and Examples" to assist states in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions by advancing energy codes to be zero energy codes over the next 15-20 years.
Today’s building codes are about 30 percent more efficient than they were ten years ago. By adopting and complying with these more efficient energy codes, states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic will progress steadily towards a future where all new buildings are required to be zero net energy buildings.