Summer is just getting into full swing, and across the country some communities are already roasting. Perhaps uncoincidentally, the process to adopt energy benchmarking policies is also heating up. Because buildings contribute to a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions, benchmarking policies are often part of city and state energy and climate plans. By tracking reliable and consistent energy consumption data, these policies can enable better decision-making around building energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Last month, MEEA hosted the 11th annual Midwest Building Energy Codes Conference. This year’s conference was held virtually October 20-22, and while the event felt a little different than previous years, participants new and old still relished insightful sessions and discussions from our top-tier speakers and attendees.
The conference kicked off with welcoming remarks from MEEA’s Building Program Director, Chris Burgess. MEEA shared insights into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our region, including how it has influenced policymaking efforts, code effective dates and energy efficiency jobs in the region.
How our buildings are constructed determines indoor environmental quality, which can significantly influence our health. The energy code regulates the components and systems that affect the interior environment: for example, it specifies that buildings have tight thermal envelopes to reduce the infiltration of pollutants and appropriate mechanical ventilation to bring fresh air into the home, ensuring healthier indoor air quality.
Big cities aren’t the only ones making sustainable communities a priority.
On June 4, 2019, the Edina, MN City Council approved the Efficient Building Benchmarking Ordinance encouraging building owners to track and reduce their energy use. The initiative requires owners of existing commercial and multifamily buildings over 25,000 square feet to benchmark their building's energy d ata. Edina is now the second city in Minnesota (after nearby Minneapolis) to require benchmarking.
According to the Weather Channel, the Plains and Midwest states have had the most extreme and record-breaking weather of any region in 2019. From the polar vortex gripping the Midwest and setting at least 340 cold weather records in late January, to the deluge of snow in February, capped off by devastating flooding in March and two snowstorms in April, Midwesterners and the Midwest have had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them!
Nebraska’s buildings are about to get a lot more efficient. Seriously, a lot more efficient.
On Wednesday, May 8, Governor Ricketts signed LB405 into law. The bill, introduced by freshman Senator Megan Hunt, updates Nebraska’s statewide residential and commercial energy code to the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) without amendments, making Nebraska the leader in efficient building codes in the Midwest, and neck-and-neck with national leaders like Massachusetts and California.
Home energy ratings are experiencing a growing role in energy code compliance. HERS Raters, in particular, often provide third-party verification services for minimum and above-code programs, including traditional compliance pathways contained in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), and more recently the Energy Rating Index (ERI) pathway. In recognition of this trend, the U.S. Department of Energy commissioned a study exploring the consistency and replicability of the HERS system, and in anticipation of HERS Raters assuming a greater role in energy code compliance.
The Energy/Health Connection
One in every 13 Americans has asthma, and we spend over $50 billion each year treating it. But did you know asthma attacks (and several other health issues) can be alleviated with better energy efficiency?
Energy efficiency policies and programs reduce pollution by offsetting the need for additional generation from power plants. Increasing energy efficiency and targeting programs to those most vulnerable for health issues (e.g. the elderly, people with existing chronic conditions, residents living in areas of higher pollution) improves public health while avoiding additional healthcare costs.