Industry: Building to Energy Code
Builders and designers within the construction industry have a direct
affect on U.S. energy consumption with the buildings they produce. For
this reason, striving for energy efficiency and code compliance are
vital aspects of operating a construction business. By constructing
and designing buildings to code, designers and builders not only create
buildings and renovations that conserve energy, but also provide consumers
savings on their heating and cooling expenses.
The Department of Energy regulates energy codes and compliance requirements.
Businesses within the construction and building industries work in tandem
with The Department of Energy (DOE), and their Building Energy Codes
Program (BECP) in order to make building practices and technologies
Energy Code Compliance Methods
Energy code compliance is required for all building types. For residential
structures, builders and designers must take energy conversation measures
into consideration for items including: air leakage, vapor retardants,
service water heating, duct installation and construction, temperature
controls, and on/off controls for swimming pools, where applicable.
Although commercial builders and designers must comply with energy
code conservation regulations, building system components are generally
evaluated on a larger scale. For example, builders and designers within
commercial building consider conservation methods for the following
components: envelope or overall building structure, lighting, and mechanical
When building, construction businesses choose an approach to utilize
in order to comply with energy code requirements. Currently, there are
three approach methods available. The approaches take into account levels
of energy consumption, based on R-values, and U-factors. R-values measure
thermal resistance, and U-factors measure the rate of heat loss. As
regulated by the DOE, the three approaches are as follows:
To encourage energy code compliance, the DOE offers complimentary compliance
tools. Users can determine energy conservation methods for projects by
using the DOE’s forms and checklists, or by utilizing their web-based
or downloadable software estimators. For more information, visit www.energycodes.gov.
- Prescriptive Approach: With the prescriptive approach,
users obtain lists of the minimum R-value or maximum U-factor requirements
for each building component, such as for windows, walls, and roofs
based on “climate zone” location. Although this approach is relatively
simple to use, there are restrictions: it utilizes requirements
that are based on worst-case assumptions, and requirements must be
met exactly as specified.
- Trade-off Approach: With this approach, users can
“trade” energy efficiencies in building components so that components
that exceed requirements can compensate for those that do not meet
code. For example, a builder may “trade” low wall insulation efficiency
measures with high window efficiency measures so that both components
are within code.
- Performance Approach: With this approach, users
must obtain an annual energy analysis first, and compare their proposed
building against a baseline design. For builders or designers utilizing
special energy maximizing features, such as solar panels or thermal
energy storage, this approach is required. Although this method does
provide greater flexibility, it requires significantly more effort
than the other two approaches.
Although energy conservation methods are largely determined at the time
of building, consumers can later perform certain measures in order to
maximize efficiency. For this reason, all Americans should be cognizant
of energy savings measures. Simple renovation methods may include replacing
non-efficient windows, lighting, or more involved measures, such as adding
solar panels to a rooftop. Small strides yield long-term benefits for
everyone, and help solve larger issues, such as pollution, and our dependence
on foreign energy supplies.
This article within is designed
to provide an informative guideline as to the energy code requirements
businesses within the construction industry face when construction new
residential or commercial buildings. For precise guidance on individual
requirements, seek the appropriate counsel.
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