Building for the Future – 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) Update

Socrates, a classical Greek philosopher, once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” And that is what we must do in the coming months with the 2018 IECC code update.

Changes are coming soon that will affect the ways in which Nebraska’s buildings are renovated and built. These energy code updates will, in turn:

  • deliver healthier indoor environments,
  • more resilient buildings and
  • provide energy and cost savings for building owners and occupants.

What are Energy Codes?

Energy codes set the minimum standard for the energy efficiency of buildings to ensure that homes and commercial buildings:

  • reduce their energy use,
  • lower utility bills and
  • improve occupant comfort.

Building energy codes layout the minimum requirements for:

  • the envelope (wall and ceiling insulation, windows and air sealing),
  • mechanical equipment (HVAC and ventilation equipment efficiency) and
  • the lighting of a building in terms of energy efficiency/conservation

for new construction or major renovations.

The International Code Council (ICC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) develop and update building codes and standards every three years. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reviews them to determine their efficiency and cost-effectiveness and makes recommendations for state adoption.

Nebraska Bill LB405 - Adopt Updates to Building and Energy Codes

In 2019, Senator Megan Hunt introduced the code update bill LB405 to update Nebraska’s energy codes for residential and commercial buildings to the 2018 IECC. Nebraska is currently using the 2009 IECC codes, which have not been updated for more than a decade.

Most states adopt a version of IECC, but often with varying adjustments, exemptions and amendments. In May 2019, Governor Ricketts signed LB405 without amendments, making Nebraska the leader in efficient building codes in the Midwest.

Commercial Energy Codes In The Midwest

Note: St. Louis has an amended version of the 2018 IECC | Source: Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA)

Building Code Standards Ensure Efficient Buildings

Passing LB405 illustrates Nebraska’s ongoing commitment to building energy efficiency. Moving to the 2018 IECC will further the opportunity to realize energy savings across the state.

According to the U.S. DOE, updating 2009 IECC to the 2018 IECC is cost-effective and would save buildings 30 percent in site energy use and 32 percent in energy costs, based on a weighted average for all building types.

This would result in a first-year savings of over $1,500,000 in energy costs and over 60,000 MMBTU in energy use based on commercial construction levels in Nebraska according to the MEEA.

The U.S. DOE also stated building energy codes will also save U.S. home and business owners an estimated $126 billion and 841 million metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions through 2040.

Schemmer’s architects and engineers are diligently working with local code officials to be at the forefront of how the code updates will be implemented since code enforcement is based on local jurisdiction.

“This is exciting – to see the code language more closely represent the culture of sustainability and responsible environmental design in Nebraska,” said Schemmer's Bryce Johnson, PE, LEED AP, QCxP, mechanical engineer.

Stay tuned for our next blog in this series to learn more about 2018 IECC and how it will affect the architectural building process.

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Sources:  U.S. Department of Energy; U.S. Department of Energy – Energy Codes; Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance; Nebraska Legislature; Nebraska Energy Office