DOE Issues RFI for Building Code Funding
Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office issued a request for information to gather responses from the public that will inform the program development and execution of Section 40511 of the bipartisan infrastructure law.
This provision makes $225 million available over the next five years to state agencies and partnerships to help drive the cost-effective implementation of building energy codes for improved efficiency and resilience.
Latest Federal Building Standards
At the end of March, the DOE released new building energy code requirements for federal buildings and proposed new standards for residential room air conditioners, pool heaters and other consumer appliances.
The latest announcement followed priorities previously set out by President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, which included an unprecedented $225 million for state and local implementation of energy codes.
Starting in April 2023, all new buildings and major retrofits constructed by the federal government are required to be in compliance with the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and the 2019 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers Standard 90.1 building energy codes.
During the first year of its implementation, the DOE estimates that $4.2 million dollars in operating costs would be saved. In an analysis of states following the latest IECC building energy codes, the DOE found that consumers would see $3.24 billion in annual energy cost savings.
In further research, the DOE noted that residential buildings specifically would result in national site-energy savings of approximately 9%, source-energy savings of nearly 9% and energy-cost savings of more than 8% if they were following the 2021 standards verses 2018.
Over the next 30 years, its estimated that together, the new codes could potentially save more than $15 billion in net costs and reduce emissions equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 14.4 million homes over the same period.
Changes made to the IECC 2021 version as compared to the previous 2018 edition include:
When the codes were updated in July, the IECC launched its “Code on a Mission” challenge, which aims to have over a third of the U.S. population covered by the 2021 IECC by the end of 2023. As a part of the challenge, the IECC asked the building industry and communities alike to update their building energy codes to meet or exceed the requirements of the 2021 IECC.
In addition to improving federal building standards, the DOE also sought comment from stakeholders on two proposed residential-focused rules for 60 days and planned to hold a public meeting to solicit feedback from industry and energy-efficiency stakeholders:
By the end of 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration intends to finalize more than 100 proposed and final actions for appliance and equipment standards.
While model energy codes are projected to deliver $138 billion energy cost savings, 900 MMT of avoided CO2 emissions and 13.5 quads of energy in cumulative benefits to residents across the country from 2010 to 2040, the DOE recognizes the importance of developing sustainable plans to support these continued updates over time.
In observing the current state of adoption with regards to the residential and commercial building energy codes, the DOE found varying differences across the country. However, extensive savings could be gained from states updating building energy codes to more recent versions, in addition to the adoption of more innovative approaches, such as stretch codes, building performance standards and adjacent policies.
Through the RFI and funding opportunities, states and local governments will support increased compliance with the building energy codes, which would also include associated workforce development in advanced technologies, construction practices and building science.
“There are many opportunities to increase representation and engagement with historically underrepresented and disadvantaged groups within energy code and building energy policy frameworks and energy and environmental justice benefits will be a high priority as the BIL provisions are implemented,” wrote the DOE.
The DOE asks that all responses to the RFI be submitted by May 20 at 5 p.m. ET. Thoughtful and informed public responses to this RFI will help DOE design programs to achieve the goals and priorities established under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
A full list of questions in the RFI can be downloaded here. The DOE encourages states, partnerships, alliances and associations to respond, although all public responses will also be heard and considered.
Previous Efforts to Strengthen Building Performance
During the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual winter meeting in January, President Biden announced that his Administration would be launching a Building Performance Standards Coalition dedicated to delivering cleaner, healthier and more affordable buildings.
The coalition was reportedly a first-of-its-kind partnership between 33 state and local governments, in addition to the states of Colorado and Washington, and builds upon the Department of Energy’s efforts to upgrade one million homes.
The progress made by the coalition will also aid President Biden’s efforts to retrofit four million buildings and two million homes during his first term.
According to reports, the coalition plans to outline new commitments to design and implement building performance standards at the state and local level, create good-paying, union jobs, lower energy bills for consumers, keep residents and workers safe from harmful pollution and cut emissions from the building sector.
The actions build on the $3.5 billion investment for home weatherization in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—which will make 700,000 homes more energy efficient and lower consumers’ electricity bills—and will make $1.8 billion available to expand building retrofits and policy implementation.
The White House reports that the New Buildings Performance Standards Coalition is supported by labor unions, philanthropy and non-governmental organizations. All those involved plan to come together to scale programs and policies to reduce emissions across the building sector.
Other actions made to strengthen building performance standards include:
The ultimate goal of the coalition is to advance legislation or regulation in each of the committed jurisdictions by April 22, 2024.