PA Adopts 2015 IECC, Philly Adopts 2018 Commercial IECC

Originally published by: Northeast Energy Efficiency PartnershipsJune 1, 2018

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From the invention of the electrostatic generator (1747) to the discovery of oil (1856), Pennsylvania has a long list of firsts in the realm of energy. Now for the first time in nearly a decade, PA is ringing in the advent of a new statewide energy code.

On May 1, 2018, the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council announced a critical update to its state code by adopting the 2015 IECC. Energy codes are often adopted alongside a suite of other codes including fire, mechanical, and plumbing, and that is the case with Pennsylvania. Before this, the state remained stagnant at the 2009 IECC. With energy savings of up to 25 percent over the commercial  2009 IECC, the 2015 IECC update will help buyers and occupants of new homes and buildings save money, save energy, and reduce their carbon footprints.

WHAT’S NEW IN THE 2015 IECC? BETTER BUILDINGS, PEACE OF MIND FOR OCCUPANTS

Overall savings from PA 2009 energy code to the 2015 code is 17 percent. With new, less expense compliance options and increased insulation values, home buyers will feel the comfort and enjoy the savings. In fact, this code update translates to savings for ratepayers on average of $300-580 per year, depending on house size and type of fuel.. The commercial sector will see savings as well.  

Key changes include the following: 

  • Energy Rating Index (ERI) - The 2015 IECC provides a new performance compliance path the Energy Rating Index (ERI).  The ERI is the measurement of a home’s energy efficiency based on a scale of 0-100. 100 is equivalent to the 2006 IECC and 0 to a zero energy home. Each number on the scale represents a one percent change in energy use, an ERI score of 50 means the house is 50 percent more efficient then a house built to the 2006 IECC.
  • Air Changes (ACH) - Air changes per hour (ACH) is the number of times in one hour that the air within a house or building is completely exchanged with the air outside. The lower the number, the tighter the building, and the more efficient it is. The 2009 IECC includes seven ACH, while the 2015 IECC is three ACH.  The PA 2015 IECC was amended to allow for five ACH, a less tight building than prescribed by the national version of the 2015 IECC.

For complete changes to PA adoption of the 2015 IECC see the Official Record of the 2015 PA Code Review.

YES, YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CHEESE STEAK AND EAT IT TOO.

While the entirety of the state will adopt the 2015 energy code, the city of Philadelphia adopted the 2018 IECCfor commercial buildings and the 2015 IECC for residential. Language in Act 36 of 2017 allows class one cities (cities with a population of one million) a one-time option to adopt the 2018 energy code. Unfortunately, in spite of its extreme interest, Pittsburgh, the state’s second-most populated city, the second-most energy efficient city, and one of the most sustainable cities in the U.S. will not be able to adopt the 2018 building codes due to it not currently being a class one city.   

ENERGY EFFICIENCY: HOW DOES PA COMPARE WITH OTHER STATES IN THE REGION? IN THE COUNTRY?

ACEEE releases an annual Energy Efficiency Scorecard, a ranking system that takes into consideration energy-related categories, from building energy codes to transportation to utility energy efficiency programs. For the last two years, Pennsylvania ranked 19th out of 50 states. The state scored five out of a possible eight points under the building energy efficiency category, receiving one point out of two for both the residential energy code and the commercial energy code. The other building energy efficiency points are outlined below, along with the points allocated in these sub-categories for New Jersey, Delaware, and New York:

 

With the adoption of this new code, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to gain two more points, one each for residential and commercial. This would put its building score at seven (7), ahead of Delaware and almost on par with New York.

Coupled with other activities like adopting voluntary stretch codes, introducing benchmarking ordinances, and more robust utility & public benefits programs, Pennsylvania could reach the top 10 of the ACEEE Energy Efficiency Scorecard in just a few years.

The ACEEE score and rankings allow the big picture of energy efficiency progress for each state. It allows folks to better understand how states compare to one another. It also gives stakeholders a goal they can work toward, and a list of priorities that can get them there. It is clear that implementing certain programs or adopting new energy codes yield a certain number of points, indicating a state’s ranking if they move forward with energy efficiency activities. It is also a great way to foster a healthy, competitive edge for stakeholders working on energy efficiency.

NEW CODES COULD SPARK A TECHNOLOGY AND GREEN WORKFORCE REVOLUTION

Using new codes in PA is significant because it has the potential to revolutionize the energy and energy performance industries. In some cases, the latest technologies such as home energy monitoring systems, lighting controls, hot water recirculation, air source heat pumps (ASHPs), and more efficient windows will become mandatory by the new code; in other cases, they will become best practice. These technologies have been available but not used in PA due to the state not adopting a new code in three cycles (new codes become available every three years). The green workforce will grow with the increased need for trained code officials, home inspectors, and energy raters. Solar provisions in the code will lead to the installation of more on-site generation. Homes will be more resilient and able to provide comfort from large temperature swings that we are increasingly experiencing.  

PENNSYLVANIA DESERVES PRAISE FOR THIS ENERGY CODE UPDATE

Adoption of a new code was a long time coming, and now Pennsylvanians can have confidence regarding energy use in new buildings. PA joins other Northeast states in Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York in adopting the 2015 codes. Fewer than 10 states nationally have adopted the 2015 IECC. Philadelphia is the first major city adoption* of the 2018 Energy Code. So go ahead PA, take a triumphant Rocky Balboa-like run up the art museum steps. The Founding Fathers would be proud.

Now we must work to ensure that local officials have the resources to enforce compliance with the new codes. The Pennsylvania Energy Code Collaborative, focused on energy code compliance, has created an environment conducive to new code adoption. Ensuring that adequate training programs and educational outreach are available, the PA Energy Code Collaborative will help to enforce compliance of the new 2015 IECC. Pennsylvania residents can be assured that new buildings will be compliant with the code so that the benefits of the updated code can be realized.

Durham, NH, population 15k, is the only other municipality in the northeast to adopt the 2018 IECC.