Are we moving towards a federally mandated Energy Code?

Building Codes, seen as instruments to protect public health and safety have traditionally been regulated by State Governments.  Energy codes are generally accepted as part of Building Codes.

As part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 the Federal Government required States to establish standards for commercial building energy codes and to consider minimum residential codes based on current voluntary codes. This gave impetus to the creation and modification of ASHRAE 90.1/1999, 2001, ASHRAE 90.2, the Model Energy Code etc.  Since the creation of ASHRAE 90.1 the US Department of Energy has made four Final Determinations related to this standard.  They are as follows:

  1. July 15, 2002, DOE issued a final determination that Standard 90.1-1999 would achieve greater energy efficiency in buildings than the 1989 edition.  They requested compliance by July 15, 2004.
  2. December 30, 2008, DOE issued a final determination that Standard 90.1-2004 would achieve greater energy efficiency in buildings than the 1999 edition.  They requested compliance by December 30, 2010.
  3. July 20, 2011, DOE issued a final determination that Standard 90.1-2007 would achieve greater energy efficiency in buildings than the 2004 edition.  They requested that states certify compliance by July 20, 2013.
  4. October 19, 2011, DOE issued a final determination that Standard 90.1-2010 would achieve greater energy efficiency in buildings than the 2007 edition.  Since they were still in the Compliance window period of the previous determination they gave the states the option of certifying this code by July 20, 2013 and skipping the certification of the 2007 ASHRE addition.  States have until October 18, 2013 to request an extension of the deadline.

The answer is yes.  It’s a matter of time.  This Excerpt from Wikipedia outlines how the Government will and has used funding to impose other standards:

The federal system limits the ability of the federal government to use state governments as an instrument of the national government, as held in Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997). However, where Congress or the Executive Branch has the power to implement programs, or otherwise regulate, there are, arguably, certain incentives in the national government encouraging States to become the instruments of such national policy, rather than to implement the program directly. One incentive is that state implementation of national programs places implementation in the hands of local officials who are closer to local circumstances. Another incentive is that implementation of federal programs at the state level would in principle limit the growth of the national bureaucracy.

For this reason, Congress often seeks to exercise its powers by offering or encouraging States to implement national programs consistent with national minimum standards; a system known as cooperative federalism. One example of the exercise of this device was to condition allocation of federal funding where certain state laws do not conform to federal guidelines. For example, federal educational funds may not be accepted without implementation of special education programs in compliance with IDEA. Similarly, the nationwide state 55 mph (90 km/h) speed limit, .08 legal blood alcohol limit, and the nationwide state 21-year drinking age were imposed through this method; the states would lose highway funding if they refused to pass such laws (though the national speed limit has since been repealed). See e.g. South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987).

The wheel has been set in motion to mandate more energy efficient buildings.  In Future Blog posts I’ll first attempt to help you understand the specific new standards that you’ll need to meet and then attempt to illustrate the new concepts that they will bring to the construction industry and practice of architecture.