Compliance and Enforcement Basics

Energy code compliance and verification are performed from different perspectives, but share the same end goal. Architects, designers, engineers, contractors, builders, and other construction industry stakeholders have a professional responsibility to design and comply with the energy code on behalf of the building owner/developer. Code officials, on the other hand, as well as others who may be involved in compliance verification, must make sure what is built actually complies with the energy code. Adopting jurisdictions must prepare and support code officials to enforce the energy code. In addition, the building design and construction community must be prepared to comply with the code. It is important for all stakeholders to know that a new or updated energy code is coming, and to understand the requirements of that code. Many states, jurisdictions, and territories start this education process several months in advance of an energy code change—often before adoption itself. Education and communication are vital, as the more training available on the new code, the more likely it is to be accepted, understood and used properly.

Communication and information exchange to prepare the building community to comply must occur between the construction community, and code-adopting and enforcing bodies. The building design and construction community, and those who support it, must know what energy code has been adopted, when it takes effect, how it is administered, and, most importantly, what it requires. Effective training must address the specific needs of architects, designers, engineers, builders, contractors, and others involved in building design and construction. Training must account for both technical and administrative provisions, and the needs of all stakeholders, including policymakers responsible for administrative decisions. Compliance training and technical support is often provided or sponsored by the following:

  • State or local government agencies
  • Universities and community colleges
  • Professional organizations
  • Utility providers
  • Trade unions and associations
  • National or regional code organizations
  • Suppliers and manufacturers.

Enforcement is complementary to energy code compliance, and also critical to attaining intended energy savings. Enforcement strategies vary according to a state or local government's regulatory authority and available resources, and may include the following activities:

  • Review of building plans and specifications
  • Evaluation of products, materials and equipment specifications
  • Review of tests, certification reports and product listings
  • Review of supporting calculations
  • Inspection of the building and its systems during construction
  • Evaluation of materials substituted in the field
  • Inspection immediately prior to occupancy.

To aid training and enforcement programs, DOE provides compliance resources, as well as Training modules, training curricula and presentations. The International Code Council (ICC), ASHRAE, and other organizations also supply tools and materials to support energy code training. Communication and information exchange to prepare the code community to verify compliance also must occur

State Enforcement

State and territorial enforcement is a common approach for state-owned or financed construction, and in rural parts of the country lacking local code officials. Plan review is generally performed by a designated state agency, which may employ numerous field inspectors. This arrangement benefits the building construction community by offering a single point-of-contact.

Local Enforcement

Authorized local agencies offer an often closer proximity to the construction process. This includes the potential for regular contact between the designer (during the design phase) and the contractor/builder (during construction). However, some local jurisdictions may lack sufficient resources to support enforcement, and local approaches tend to vary. Compliance can be enhanced when a state agency, utility, or other entity actively supports local governments in their efforts to enforce the energy code. Some states allow local jurisdictions to petition to conduct enforcement activities that usually are the responsibility of the state. This strategy offers advantages associated with state enforcement, while recognizing local governments with enforcement capabilities equivalent to those at the state level.