January 2012

The BECP News newsletter encourages the exchange of information among building professionals and organizations, state and local code officials, and researchers. Its goal is to facilitate timely development and early adoption of the building energy conservation standards.

What can be done to curb the significant and ever-growing impact of building energy use?

Adoption and implementation of building energy codes in communities across the United States are critical components in overall efforts to promote energy savings in buildings. Building energy codes lead to long-term energy savings by promoting construction of new energy-efficient buildings and introducing energy-efficient construction methods and technologies during renovations of older buildings. Energy-efficient construction in both new buildings and renovations has the potential to save energy throughout the life spans of buildings. The total projected annual energy savings from adoption and implementation of future energy codes are expected to be 2.4 quadrillion Btu of primary energy by 2030. This amount of saved energy is equivalent to the annual electricity delivered from 571 coal-fired power plants (200 MW each).

For over 20 years, the U.S. Department of Energy's Building Energy Code Program (BECP) has provided timely support for the development, adoption, implementation, and compliance of more effective and enforceable building energy codes. BECP promotes energy savings by:

  • participating with stakeholders in the development and revision of building energy codes to develop cost effective, more energy-efficient codes
  • providing technical assistance to states and local jurisdictions in support of adoption and compliance of codes
  • developing resource guides to aid policy makers, architects, and building officials in efforts focused on adoption and compliance with codes
  • facilitating training to promote understanding of the code and compliance
  • developing software tools to enable no–cost, easy-to-use compliance
  • creating and maintaining web resources to support the needs of stakeholders in the development, adoption, and compliance processes.
Code Development: 

DOE Participates in Development of the First Edition of the IgCC

During 2011, DOE participated in the development of the new 2012 International Green Construction Code® (IgCC), which will be published by the International Code Council (ICC) in early 2012. This new model code is one of 15 codes in the coordinated series of ICC model codes that are the bases for the majority of building construction regulations in the United States. DOE, through BECP, also developed and submitted a number of proposed changes to Public Version 2.0 of IgCC, participated in public hearings on the proposed changes, and participated as a voting member of the Energy and Water Committee of the IgCC.

PNNL staff on the Energy and Water Committee heard testimony on all energy- and water-related proposed changes, submitted public comments on the results of the first hearing, and participated in the final action hearings during which governmental members of the ICC decided on the final criteria for the 2012 IgCC.

DOE's participation focused specifically on enhancing the energy efficiency associated with the IgCC, which applies to commercial buildings, and the general usability of the IgCC. The energy chapter of the IgCC includes enhanced provisions that are based on the commercial building provisions of 2012 IECC. For example, the enhanced 2012 IgCC provisions include a 10 percent increase in the thermal-envelope requirements over the requirements in the 2012 IECC, a 10 percent reduction in the allowable lighting power, increased use of daylighting and lighting controls, and increased emphasis on plug and process loads. The IgCC also retains a reference to ASHRAE Standard 189.1-2011 as an alternative path to compliance.

Of note, DOE worked closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in developing joint code change proposals and coordinating joint responses to the over 1400 proposed changes to the IgCC and over 1200 pages of public comments. Already adopted in draft form by some states, the 2012 edition is expected to receive considerable interest and subsequent adoption by even more states. Proposed changes to the 2012 IgCC are due January 3, 2013, and subsequent considerations and ICC code development will be the bases of the 2015 edition of IgCC. For more information on the IgCC, visit ICC.

Code Adoption: 

Across the nation, states have adopted the 2009 IECC and ASHRAE 90.1-2007, and adoption of the next generation of codes is pending for several states. By January 2012, 25 states, 1 district and 3 territories will be enforcing the residential energy codes, and 31 states, 1 district, and 3 territories will be enforcing the commercial energy code. BECP coordinates with each of the Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations and the Building Codes Assistance Program (BCAP) to provide leadership and technical assistance for adoption of energy codes.


A key component to the successful adoption of energy codes is suitable regulatory, legislative, and local level code adoption language. Proper language will contribute to adoption of the most recent version of the codes and standards, and will influence the enforcement and compliance of codes as well. Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Oregon, and Virginia are excellent examples of states that use different adoption languages and resources to implement the adoption and compliance processes.

Technical information often is needed to support adoption. Over the next 4 months, BECP will be providing information on window performance in the context of the codes , and the potential for job creation associated with adoption of energy codes.

BECP engages with states and jurisdictions throughout the adoption process to provide technical assistance and support to ensure that adopted codes can be readily implemented and enforced. This assistance includes providing adoption support, tracking state adoption status, and delivering state-specific resources. BECP is developing a comprehensive adoption strategy that will enable 70 percent of the states to adopt either the 2009 IECC or the ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007, or subsequently developed, more-efficient codes, by 2017.

More information is available at the following links: BCAP, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership, or Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance.

Code Compliance: 

The Building Energy Codes University (BECU) implemented through BECP is a continuing education provider for the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The majority of BECU's courses offer AIA learning units and continuing education units (CEU). After successfully completing a course and its test, a participant can enter their AIA member number, which then will be submitted to AIA by BECP. A certificate of completion for each course also is available for participants who can self-report for CEU's, including for ICC renewal certification. Courses are offered as on-demand webcasts and the training is self-paced. Examples of courses offered are listed below:

  • Codes 101
  • REScheck Basics
  • COMcheck Basics
  • Residential Requirements of the 2009 IECC
  • Commercial Requirements of the 2009 IECC
  • Commercial Requirements of ASHRAE 90.1-2007

For more information and a complete list of training materials offered go to

For more information about any of the articles in BECP News please contact our Help Desk.

Code Tips: 

New energy code resource guides and code notes provide builders and code officials with tools and techniques to assist in compliance with the energy codes. The newest edition of the International Energy Conservation Code© (2012 IECC) sets the bar higher for energy efficiency, and new air sealing requirements are one of the key new provisions.

The recently published Air Sealing Guide, a code resource for understanding new air-leakage requirements in the 2012 IECC, provides suggestions on how these new measures can be met. It also provides information from Building America's Air Sealing Guide, best practices, and case studies on homes that are currently meeting the provisions. The 2012 IECC and a few International Residential Code® (IRC) requirements are referenced throughout the guide.

New code notes address Whole-House Mechanical Ventilation, Converting Unconditioned Basements to Conditioned Space, and Converting Unconditioned Garages to Conditioned Spaces. To view all the Code Notes and Resource Guides available, visit, and submit specific questions to

Software Tips: 

How do I show the area (component) of the rim joist in REScheck?

The rim joist is treated as part of the exterior wall area and should be included in the above-grade wall calculation. For example, if the wall is 9 ft in height and the rim joist is 1 ft, the total wall height would be 10 ft times the length of the wall to get the total square footage of the wall area.

How can I show compliance for roof solar reflectance specifications in COMcheck? Also, have the specifications for roof solar reflectance changed from ASHRAE 90.1-2007 to 90.1-2010?

Specifications and options for a high albedo roof (also referred to as "cool roof") are shown in COMcheck if the building is located in climate zones 1 through 3. High albedo roofs are treated differently between Standard 90.1-2007 and Standard 90.1-2010. High albedo roofs are treated as a credit toward the overall compliance in Standard 90.1-2007 (with allowance for lowered roof insulation), but these same roofs are required in Standard 90.1-2010 in addition to the full amount of roof insulation. In both standards, high albedo roofs are only associated with low-slope roofs over conditioned (i.e., cooled) spaces and attics that are not ventilated. (High-slope roofs cannot reflect as much direct sunlight, and roofs over spaces that are not cooled will not achieve any energy saving due to reduced air conditioning loads).

Under COMcheck for Standard 90.1-2007, a high albedo roof can be specified as a type of roof assembly. To claim insulation credit for this type of roof, one of two other criteria must be met: 1) solar reflectance or 2) solar reflective index (SRI). Under COMcheck for Standard 90.1-2010, the cool-roof requirement can be satisfied by one of three options: 1) solar reflectance, 2) SRI, or 3) increased levels of insulation (see Standard 90.1-2010, Table

COMcheck implements the cool roof specifications taken directly from Standard 90.1-2007 and Standard 90.1-2010, but these requirements are different:(a)

  • Solar reflectance decreased from 0.70 in Standard 90.1-2007 to 0.55 in Standard 90.1-2010, but included a minimum three-year-aged solar reflectance.
  • The SRI decreased from 82 in Standard 90.1-2007 to 64 in Standard 90.1-2010, but included a minimum three-year-aged SRI.
  • The thermal emittance value of 0.75 remains the same in both Standard 90.1-2007 and Standard 90.1-2010, but Standard 90.1-2010 now requires a minimum three-year-aged thermal emittance.
  • ASHRAE 90.1-2010 has a list of exceptions to meeting the requirements of high albedo roofs. (COMcheck addresses these exceptions in a dropdown list of choices.)

(a) ASTM E1980–11, "Standard Practice for Calculating Solar Reflectance Index of Horizontal and Low-Sloped Opaque Surfaces;" ASTM C1371–04a(2010)e1, "Standard Test Method for Determination of Emittance of Materials Near Room Temperature Using Portable Emissometers;" and ASTM E408–71(2008), "Standard Test Methods for Total Normal Emittance of Surfaces Using Inspection-Meter Techniques."

To submit specific questions about REScheck and COMcheck, go to