Adopting and enforcing building energy codes reduces the energy use of homes and buildings. Energy conservation is a major purpose of the International Code Council’s International Energy Conservation Code and ASHRAE’s Standard 90.1 – Energy Standard for Buildings, and adherence to these codes reaps sizeable savings. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that model energy codes for residential and commercial buildings are projected to save (from 2010-2040) $126 billion at today’s energy prices and they can reduce annual CO2 emissions equal to 177 million passenger vehicles or 245 coal power plants.
Though the energy savings are impressive, building energy codes offer many other positive benefits for:
- Productivity – GDP has grown 12% in the U.S. since 2007, while total energy use has fallen nearly 4%, meaning the energy productivity of the U.S. economy grew 16% over the past decade. Since 40% of energy use is attributed to buildings, it is clear that improved codes have spurred growth since less money spent on energy means more money invested in local communities and jobs.
- Affordability – Energy efficiency protects consumers from spikes in energy bills during a sweltering summer or frigid winter. Studies show that default risks are 32% lower in energy-efficient homes. Energy efficiency improves communities and home values by managing monthly energy costs and improving homeowners’ ability to meet monthly obligations.
- Reliability – Buildings are energy hogs: they use 75% of all electricity produced in the US. Aging energy infrastructure increases vulnerability to blackouts and security threats. Every building that limits energy usage also decreases our reliance on overworked grids. Building energy codes are an intuitive policy option to lighten the energy load.
- Resiliency – Weather related emergencies seem increasingly common and exact tolls on the homes, schools, and hospitals we rely on for safety and protection. The adoption and enforcement of energy codes makes buildings less susceptible to failure and quicker to recover after storms. For example, insulation in building envelopes improves the performance of roofs and walls in weather events. And energy-efficient buildings maintain a comfortable indoor environment when power for heating and cooling is limited or unavailable.
- Individuals – We are all trying to do more with less time. A recent study demonstrated that working in high-performing, green-certified buildings can improve decision-making in the workplace. In the study, the indoor environments of green buildings that operated within the thermal comfort zone as defined by ASHRAE resulted in higher cognitive function scores and better indoor air quality.
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