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USGNN Original StoryEE Global Forum Looks Beyond Current Codes

The Energy Efficiency Global Forum & Exposition (EE Global) in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Alliance to Save Energy, continued yesterday with a presentation on "Best Building Energy Efficiency Performance: Moving Beyond Codes."

Chris Mathis, president of MC Squared and a founding member of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), focused on efforts for energy efficiency beyond those required by current building codes. He began by offering a loose definition of building codes: "The least safe, least strong, least energy-efficient building allowed by law."

As with other speakers at the event, Mathis advocated a change toward more energy-efficient buildings through the codes as well as through incentive programs.

"The primary 'friction' in the system is resistance to change," Mathis said of the code process.

Often, change comes as the result of a disaster, Mathis said. He pointed out examples running from the burning of Rome during Nero's time, which he noted led to early sanitation and fire codes, to Hurricane Katrina, which has provoked Louisiana to look at building codes. Mathis then asked his audience what might constitute an energy disaster. What type of energy disaster might provoke the United States to write energy efficiency into the building codes?

Mathis looked, as one example, at windows in existing homes. Of 110 million existing homes, Mathis said, 64 percent have single-pane windows. Fifty-six percent of residential windows now feature low-E, while 37 percent of commercial buildings feature low-E coatings. According to Mathis, replacing windows with the current minimum energy codes would save one ton of air conditioning per house, or 12,000 btu/hr.

"Are we doing enough?" Mathis asked. "If we embrace the idea of sustainability, what can we do to get there?"

He encouraged his audience to look at the building codes as the minimum required, and strive for attaining higher certifications in new construction and renovations. "What minimum are we willing to embrace?" he asked.

Bill Nesmith, the assistant director for conservation with the Oregon Department of Energy, noted that some states have worked to make sure their codes offer something more stringent than at the federal level. Nesmith spoke on how Oregon has worked to create stringent codes for improving energy efficiency.

One listener noted that no matter how well-designed the code, it won't work without enforcement.

Nesmith agreed. "You can have the greatest code in the world on paper; if it's not enforced it can't get you where you want to go." He added, "People have to want it, and want the green features."

Stay tuned to USGNN.comô for more on the EE Global Forum.

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