The US Department of Energy’s Building Energy Codes Program (BECP) was established in 1991 to support increased energy efficiency in America’s residential and commercial buildings. The BECP coordinates with other governmental agencies, as well as with state and local jurisdictions, to provide minimum requirements for energy-efficient design and construction for new and renovated buildings.
The Climate Policy Initiative found that energy codes are associated with lower energy consumption per housing unit—a decrease of about 10% compared to houses built prior to the US Energy Code requirements.
The DOE’s program uses the following tactics to address energy efficiency in building:
- Development—promoting more efficient building practices
- Adoption—offering support and education about the implementation of energy codes from state to state
- Compliance—assisting building industry stakeholders in achieving full compliance with the codes
- Regulation—establishing standards of regulation in federal buildings and manufactured housing
- Resources—offering tools, training materials and technical assistance to assist the entire building industry in reaching compliance with the codes
The baseline US Energy Codes can be coupled with above-code programs like ENERGY STAR and LEED to push energy efficiency even higher. BECP works with both the International Code Council (ICC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) on code development and visioning for future code changes.
The Building Energy Codes Program supported ASHRAE to increase commercial building energy efficiency standards by 30% between 2004 and 2010.
Insulation and US Energy Codes
From the builder or consumer point of view, US Energy Codes create a cost savings by resulting in lower ongoing utility bills and less costly HVAC equipment. From a societal point of view Energy Codes ultimately result in fewer power plants and fewer/less natural resources being used to create electricity. From an environmental point of view Energy Codes mean fewer emissions in the atmosphere which ideally may result in cleaner air. Energy codes are good for everyone.
For an illustration of how effective energy codes can be in reducing per capita energy use, look to the State of California, whose progressive enforcement of energy codes has resulted in less energy use per capita than the rest of the US states over the last several decades.
As a thermal barrier, insulation obviously plays a huge commanding role in energy efficiency. It stands to reason that a well-insulated building would requires less energy to heat and cool. Using the right insulation materials helps meet codes and meeting codes, in turn, helps builders provide high-performance homes and buildings for their customers. You can see how integral choosing the right insulation is to meeting, or exceeding energy codes when you consider what they cover:
- Duct insulation
- Infiltration control
- Temperature control
- Pipe insulation
- Above-grade walls
- Skylights, windows and doors
- Vapor retarder
R-value alone does not guarantee an insulation material will meet code and do an effective job at or be an effective agent of energy efficiency. If an insulation type doesn’t seal all air leaks in the nooks and crannies of a space, it doesn’t matter what its lab R-value is—air will seep pass through—heat will escape and cold air seep in. Spray foam insulation is applied as a liquid that expands to fill every single tiny crack in a cavity and, n some cases, it even creates a monolithic seal. So it’s simply the best when it comes to energy efficient insulation.
For more about the Building Energy Codes Program, visit energycodes.gov.
Note that because spray foam insulation has its own performance, application and manufacturing characteristics, it falls under its own acceptance criteria: ICC Evaluation Service (ICC-ES) Acceptance Criteria for Spray-Applied Foam Plastic Insulation (AC377).
Of course, meeting the US Energy Codes during construction or renovation is only one measure of a building’s efficiency. The other is how the building actually performs over its lifetime and whether it saves its owner money in energy costs. Spray foam insulation can dramatically reduce energy bills because it is such a superior insulator. It’s also a safe, healthy, affordable, versatile and easy-to-work-with engineered building material that’s been in steadily gaining popularity since the 1970s. At this pivotal turning point in our collective national quest for energy efficiency and environmental soundness in the way we are building, spray foam is ready to take on the challenge of being the go-to insulation material for residential and commercial building nationwide.