2021 Energy Code sets table for double-digit efficiency gains

Sources: New Buildings Institute, Portland, Ore.; CP staff

Approved 2021 International Energy Conservation Code ballot items will bring an estimated 10 percent or greater efficiency improvement for residential and commercial building envelopes in jurisdictions abiding the code. IECC changes will lower building energy use for decades, reduce costs, and help mitigate carbon emissions from the built environment, proponents note.

Voting on the 2021 IECC proposals followed more than a year of efforts by a broad coalition of organizations to update the national model energy code. Results from balloting spell the second biggest efficiency gain for the code in the past decade. "Homes and buildings account for roughly 40 percent of our energy consumption and carbon emissions, so this is a very big deal," explains Alliance to Save Energy President Clay Nesler. "It will save consumers and businesses money that can be invested elsewhere in the economy while significantly reducing carbon emissions. It is also the most significant step forward in nearly a decade to putting America's model energy codes on a pathway towards decarbonization."

As a model energy code, IECC sets minimum efficiency standards for residential and commercial buildings related to walls, floors, ceilings, lighting, windows, doors, duct leakage, and air leakage. It serves as the go-to basis for states and some cities that can control their building codes to develop local requirements. The IECC is updated every three years through an extensive proposal process and online balloting of eligible voters, primarily representing local governments and related agencies. After voting results are certified and challenges cleared, the final 2021 IECC will be released later in 2020, at which time jurisdictions can begin adoption.