Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law: DOE Requires States to Review and Possibly Update Building Energy Codes

Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law: DOE Requires States to Review and Possibly Update Building Energy Codes


 By J. Cullen Howe, Environmental Law Specialist, Arnold & Porter LLP

The Department of Energy recently published two final determinations that will require states to review and possibly update their residential and commercial building energy efficiency codes.

Pursuant to a July 19 final determination on low-rise residential buildings, states are required to file certification statements with DOE that they have reviewed energy efficiency provisions of their building codes and have made a determination as to whether to update their code to meet or exceed the 2009 edition of the International Code Council's International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) by July 19, 2013.  Low-rise residential buildings include one- and two-family detached and attached buildings, duplexes, townhouses, row houses, and low-rise multifamily buildings not greater than three stories.  According to the determination, DOE has concluded that the 2009 IECC would achieve 14% more energy in such buildings than the 2006 IECC.  Pursuant to the Energy Conservation and Production Act, DOE is required to determine the effectiveness of revisions to 1992 Model Energy Code (now referred to as the IECC) in improving energy efficiency in residential buildings.  If such a determination is made, each state is required to inform DOE whether they have updated their codes to match model codes or achieve the energy savings contained within them.

In addition, pursuant to a separate final notice of determination published July 20 on commercial buildings, states are required by July 20, 2013, to provide certification to DOE that they have reviewed energy efficiency provisions in their commercial building codes and updated their codes to comply with or exceed standards published in 2007 by the American National Standards Institute, otherwise known as ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007.  The standard covers building lighting and power requirements, building mechanical requirements, and other areas.  DOE has determined that the 2007 Standard would achieve greater energy efficiency than the 2004 edition.  Commercial buildings include high-rises greater than three stories, multifamily residential buildings, and other similar buildings.  Under the Energy Policy Act, states are directed to adopt commercial energy building codes that achieve equivalent energy saving as model codes, though there is no penalty if they do not. 

Reprinted with permission from Green Building Law Update Service.

J. Cullen Howe is an environmental law specialist at Arnold & Porter LLP. Much of Cullen's work focuses on climate change, where he attempts to educate lawyers and the public at large on the enormous cooperation necessary to adequately address this problem. In addition to his work on climate change, Cullen is the managing editor of Environmental Law in New York, edits the Environmental Law Practice Guide, Brownfields Law and Practice, the Environmental Impact Review in New York, and has drafted chapters in the Environmental Law Practice Guide on climate change and green building. Mr. Howe is a graduate of Vermont Law School, where he was the managing editor of the Vermont Law Review, and a graduate of DePauw University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

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