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Energy Resilience

Building energy codes play a prominent role in shaping energy resilience.

Energy resilience is the ability to operate building energy services, such as heating, cooling, ventilation, critical plug loads, and shelter, during and in response to a major disruption, and can be defined by two central functions shown in the table below.

Passive Survivability Grid Resilience
The ability to maintain safe indoor conditions in the event of extended energy outage or loss of energy supply. In practice, passive survivability enables safe indoor thermal conditions, relying on building design measures that require no energy. As a measure of a building’s thermal performance, passive survivability offers an integrated assessment of both energy efficiency and resilience. Building energy technologies that provide efficiency and grid flexibility services. These technologies can provide grid services during peak demand periods. Demand load reductions alleviate energy supply and grid constraints, thereby decreasing the risk of power system failures.                                         

Energy resilience may also encapsulate secondary benefits, including improved comfort, safety, and health. Together, these benefits contribute to the broader resilience of a community.

A variety of building technologies and materials can contribute to improved energy resilience. Enhanced building envelope, such as energy efficient wall insulation or windows, can enable a building to maintain safe conditions for occupants for a longer period of time during a heatwave or cold snap. On-site generation and energy storage systems can be a critical strategy to provide emergency power for essential equipment during an extended outage. In addition, grid-interactive technologies like demand responsive controls and appliances, occupancy sensors, and building energy management systems can mitigate strain on the electric grid. Deployed at scale, these technologies can potentially prevent loss of power from occurring in the first place.

The inclusion of strong resilience measures in energy codes, as well as existing buildings programs like building performance standards (BPS), can help ensure that new construction and major renovation projects are able to leverage their potentially life-saving resilience benefits. The Building Technologies Office, through the Building Energy Codes Program conducts research to explore the intersection between resilience and building energy codes. See below for resources from DOE, other federal agencies, and external partners.


DOE Study: Enhancing Resilience in Buildings Through Energy Efficiency

The DOE Building Technologies Office commissioned three national research laboratories (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) to develop a standardized methodology to quantitatively assess how energy-efficiency measures affect building thermal resilience. This report summarizes the research findings, reports initial findings resulting from the efficiency-resilience valuation effort, and identifies areas of need for continued research and analysis.

resilience diagram

Methodology to Evaluate Energy Code Resilience diagram (click to enlarge)

Community Guide:  Community Energy Resilience Planning for Extended Power Outages

The DOE Building Energy Codes Program commissioned ICF, Inc. to develop a community resource guide to empower communities to find and use the best solutions for them to achieve overall health, safety, and prosperity goals and serve the needs of those with the greatest health and safety risks in extended power outages.

FEMA Study: Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study of Loss Prevention

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 2020 study Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study shows that modern building codes lead to major reduction in property losses from natural disasters. The FEMA report calculates losses from three types of natural hazard (earthquakes, flooding, and hurricane winds) for each state and Washington, D.C.

FEMA Database: Nationwide Building Code Adoption Tracking

FEMA tracks current building code adoption status for state, local, tribal and territorial governments (SLTTs), reaching approximately 22,000 jurisdictions across the nation. This effort, often referred to as BCAT (Building Code Adoption Tracking), evaluates several aspects of a community’s natural hazard risks and building code adoption.

NIBS Study: Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves

The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2019 Report includes an evaluation of benefit-cost analysis of natural hazard mitigation, from adopting up-to-date building codes and exceeding codes to addressing the retrofit of existing buildings and utility and transportation infrastructure.

ICC White Paper: The Important Role of Energy Codes in Achieving Resilience

This International Code Council (ICC) 2019 white paper examines the intersection of energy and resilience and the important role of energy codes in supporting community resilience.

ICC Resource: Resilience Toolkit

ICC provides resources to assist jurisdictions, manufacturers and the public on the resilience benefits of strong, updated building codes.

ASHRAE Resource: Resilience Activities

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) developed resources to help designers make buildings more resilient so they can absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events.

NAHB Resource: Resilient Residential Construction

The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) provide resources for resilient residential construction, including strategies to improve resilience of a home and a toolkit to help communities respond to natural disasters.