When the building was originally designed and documented, and the building plans, specifications, and compliance documentation were turned in to the code official, the code official reviewed those plans in a process called "plan review."7
Review of the plans, specifications, and documentation by the code official results in preliminary approval of the building design and authorization to begin construction of the building. However, even the most carefully planned and designed buildings may have changes made during the construction process. Specified materials may not be available, the owner's needs may change, or the designer may have a better idea for some unique aspect of the building. All of these changes can be accommodated in the change order process commonly used in construction projects, but remember that the code official will be conducting inspections of the building during construction, and he/she needs to know about changes that may impact the energy efficiency of the building as well.
One specific issue that must be dealt with in this step is value engineering. The Whole-Building Design Guide (Resource 1) describes value engineering as …conscious and explicit set of disciplined procedures designed to seek out optimum value for both initial and long-term investment. First utilized in the manufacturing industry during World War II, it has been widely used in the construction industry for many years. Value engineering is not a design/peer review or a cost-cutting exercise. Value engineering is a creative, organized effort, which analyzes the requirements of a project for the purpose of achieving the essential functions at the lowest total costs (capital, staffing, energy, maintenance) over the life of the project. Through a group investigation, using experienced, multidisciplinary teams, value and economy are improved through the study of alternate design concepts, materials, and methods without compromising the functional and value objectives of the client.
Unfortunately, substitution of alternate materials or changes to design may result in a building that does not meet the energy code requirements. For example, substituting a window with seemingly the same general characteristics such as "vinyl-framed, double-paned" may mean code is not achieved because the U-factors and SHGCs are critical for code compliance. This means that the specifications must be very precise and detailed to make sure such substitutions do not result in a failure to comply with the energy code. If value engineering takes place before submittal of the initial design to the code official, a good plan review would reveal if alternate materials met code or not. However, if value engineering takes place after submittal of the initial design to the code official, the only opportunity to address any problems that may arise is during the on-site inspections.
Updating the plans, specifications, and code compliance documentation as changes are made to the building during construction is a vital step in ensuring that the building does comply with the energy code. One obvious implication of this step is that value engineering should be performed only by individuals who are familiar with the energy codes. This implies that they have almost the same energy code background and knowledge as the original designers of the building.
- See discussion of "plan review" in the companion Enforcement Toolkit