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The Importance of Code Compliance

Posted By Alex Wellman, Wednesday, March 23, 2016

By most estimates, buildings account for roughly 40% of the energy generated in the United States. Combined with the average building lifespan of over 50 years, it is imperative that buildings continue to be built and retrofitted to high standards of energy efficiency. One way to accomplish this is through prudent building energy codes developed from a consensus process with input from all stakeholders including architects, contractors, product manufacturers, code officials and environmental advocates. 

Most building energy codes are based on model codes developed on a three year cycle by the International Codes Council (ICC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).  


This standard represents the minimum required prescriptive R-value (resistance to heat flow) for roof and wall insulation levels of all buildings, except low-rise residential. The R-value requirements for this standard were recently increased by 33 percent for Climate Zones 2 through 8. The above-deck roof insulation requirements for those climate zones goes from R-15 to R-20.For more information, visit


Introduced by the International Code Council (ICC), the IECC is being adopted rapidly by state and local code jurisdictions across the United States. The code incorporates the ASHRAE 90.1-2010 standard, offering both prescriptive and performance-based approaches. IECC contains minimum energy efficiency provisions for residential and commercial buildings and also features building envelope requirements for thermal performance and air leakage. The intent of the IECC is to effectively conserve energy, minimize increases in construction costs, eliminate preferential treatment for particular industries or types of materials and allow for the use of new materials, products or methods of construction.

States and municipalities then develop their own building energy codes based on these model codes. Some jurisdictions choose to update their codes in line with model code development process while others lag behind and base their codes on previous model code developments.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that the most recent model codes, if implemented across all jurisdictions, would “save about $150 billion, reduce total energy use in buildings nationwide by 5% in 2030, and create tens of thousands of jobs.”

While it’s easy to see the overall benefit of building energy codes, there is still a disconnect between the code development process and enforcement and understanding of the codes by local building code officials.

PIMA, along with groups such as the Institute for Market Transformation and Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, have recently released Roof and Wall Thermal Design Guide: Applying the Prescriptive Insulation Standards of the 2015 I-Codes.  The guide provides detailed and focused information regarding the prescriptive commercial wall and roof energy requirements of the 2015 I-Codes. PIMA has also developed a code education program to speak to code official organizations across the country and educate them on the impact of properly enforced building energy codes.  Additionally, there is a commercial roofing permit checklist available on the PIMA website to assist building code officials.

Despite the demonstrated success of building energy codes, without proper enforcement they cannot reach their full potential of improving the quality and comfort of our built environment, saving consumers money, and radically reducing carbon emissions through decreased energy demand. PIMA will continue to work as an effective advocate for common sense building energy codes.


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