December 2012

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Energy Codes Program newsletter (BECP News) encourages the exchange of information among stakeholders in the buildings arena. BECP News targets building professionals, state and local code officials, researchers, contractors, and utilities, as well as national associations and others involved in the design, construction, and commissioning of buildings. The goal of the newsletter is to facilitate the timely development and early adoption of, and compliance with, building energy codes and standards.

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Subscribe to BECP News to receive the latest on building energy code activities, software, and resources, or update your subscription to receive updates on specific topics of interest, including Compliance Tools, Publications, Code Development, Training Events and eLearning courses.


BECP Website

The DOE BECP website and Resource Center have been consolidated, updated, and redesigned to provide clearer paths to information on building energy code and standard development, adoption, compliance, and information about associated regulations. Technical information, publications, and training resources are centrally located in the BECP Resource Center.

Website features include:

Some URLs and features have changed slightly with the redesign, so be sure to update your bookmarks.

Questions and/or comments regarding the website may be submitted to the BECP website coordinator.

Buy your copies of the 2012 IECC in bulk and save!

Buying copies of the 2012 IECC® for your jurisdiction(s)? Now through April 1, 2013, you can purchase copies of the code in bulk and save as much as $20/copy! The Department of Energy Building Energy Codes Program (BECP) with the International Code Council (ICC) and ASHRAE has negotiated special pricing as follows:

International Energy Conservation Code®
500-999 copies $23.00/copy (43% off)
1,000+ copies $19.50/copy (51% off)

International Energy Conservation Code and Commentary®
500-999 copies $35.00/copy (36% off)
1,000+ copies $30.00/copy (45% off)

International Energy Conservation Code and ASHRAE 90.1 Combo®
500-999 copies $72.00/copy (51% off)
1,000+ copies $65.00/copy (56% off)

Note: prices do not include tax and shipping

Interested in placing an order? Contact ICC Customer Service Manager Mark Gerry at or 1-888-422-7233 x3325 and mention that you came through DOE for special pricing. But hurry, your order must be received by April 1, 2013, to receive this discount!

Reports on Potential Job Creation Available for Comment

At the request of DOE, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has researched the effect of model energy code adoption within states on job creation in the United States. The analysis found that transforming the U.S. housing stock through the adoption of more energy-efficient building energy codes could create hundreds of jobs in most of the states analyzed. Draft reports have been prepared for four representative states and are now available for viewing and comment. Comments on the drafts will be accepted through January 20, 2013.

COMcheck™ Now Supports 2012 IECC

COMcheck 3.9.1 and COMcheck-Web™ have been released with support for the 2012 IECC commercial provisions. IECC editions dated earlier than 2003 are no longer supported by COMcheck and REScheck software tools. The COMcheck product group makes it easy for architects, builders, designers, and contractors to determine whether new commercial or high-rise residential buildings, additions, and alterations meet the requirements of the IECC and ASHRAE Standard 90.1, as well as several state-specific codes. COMcheck also simplifies compliance for building officials, plan checkers, and inspectors by allowing them to quickly determine if a building project meets the code.

Advanced Notice Regarding the Use of DOE's Compliance Software Tools, REScheck™ and COMcheck

Through DOE BECP, DOE provides tools to assist builders, designers, and enforcement officials in documenting and demonstrating compliance with building energy codes. In the coming months, older versions of the REScheck and COMcheck software tools will no longer be supported. The update will affect states and localities using certain versions of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1.

Starting in the winter of 2012, REScheck will support the 2006 IECC (and more recent editions), and COMcheck will support ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004 (and more recent editions). The update will affect users of the 2003 IECC (or 2004 Supplement), ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001, and all previous editions. States and territories who have updated their energy codes to meet or exceed more recent editions will not be affected by this update to phase out of older software versions.

Future software releases are expected to follow the three-year cycle corresponding to model energy code development and publication. Within one year of publication of a new edition of the IECC or ASHRAE Standard 90.1, BECP intends to release updated versions of REScheck and COMcheck while simultaneously removing the oldest code edition options from the software. For example, within one year after publication of the 2015 IECC, REScheck will support the 2015, 2012, and 2009 editions and discontinue support of the 2006 edition. In summary, REScheck and COMcheck will support the three most recent editions of the IECC and ASHRAE Standard 90.1.

If you have any questions regarding these changes, please contact the BECP Online Help Desk.

Code Development: 

New PNNL Report Released: Changes between the 2009 and 2012 IECC

At the request of DOE, PNNL has developed a report outlining the changes between the 2009 and 2012 IECC. In 2010, the International Code Council (ICC) approved the 2012 edition of the IECC. Through the ICC code development process, a new code version is produced through revisions, additions, and deletions to the previous version, in this case the 2009 IECC. The comparison of the 2009 and 2012 versions of the IECC outlines changes and new code requirements and assists code users as they work to become familiar with the updated version.

Revisions to 2009 IECC provided in the 2012 IECC commercial provisions include an increase in the allowable percentage of skylight area to 5% of total roof area, air barrier requirements for a continuous barrier throughout the building envelope in other than Climate Zones 1-3, stricter HVAC system piping insulation requirements, a space-by-space method for determining allowable lighting power limits, and a new section on building commissioning.

Revisions to 2009 IECC provided in the 2012 IECC residential provisions include mandatory blower door testing to determine the building air leakage rate, reductions in allowable duct leakage rates, treatment of service hot water piping through insulation or limitations on pipe length, an increase in high-efficacy lighting from 50% to 75%, and whole-house mechanical ventilation that meets the requirements specified in the 2012 International Residential Code.

View the entire report, Guide to the Changes between the 2009 and 2012 International Energy Conservation Code, published by PNNL in May 2012.

Code Adoption: 

Residential IECC Cost-Effectiveness Analysis and Results National Report

DOE recently sponsored a series of cost analyses covering the 2009 and 2012 International Energy Conservation Code IECC for new single-family homes and low-rise multifamily residential buildings. Through a life-cycle perspective, first costs are balanced against longer term energy savings to determine the cost-effectiveness of the 2009 and 2012 versions of the IECC against a 2006 baseline. Based on this analysis, the 2009 and 2012 IECC are found to be cost-effective across all U.S. climate zones. The study yielded a national report, as well as several state-specific reports. Results are posted on the Building Energy Codes website.

Code Compliance: 

DOE BECP Code Notes assist builders in achieving code compliance. Each Code Note addresses a single building feature, explains how it is covered by the relevant code(s), gives a concise explanation of why and how it works, lists in detail any other requirements that must accompany the particular feature, and includes detailed drawings and graphics, where necessary.

Summary of 2012 IECC Commercial Provisions on Building Entrances (Vestibules)

If a commercial building is located in Climate Zone 3 or higher, and the building’s public pedestrian entrance(s) opens into a space that is heated and/or cooled and is 3,000 ft2 or larger in floor area, then a vestibule must be provided at the entrance(s). The vestibule must be designed so that when a user walks through the first door, it automatically closes before the user opens the second door. A vestibule is not required on a door to a sleeping unit or dwelling unit, a door primarily facilitating vehicular movement, or on a revolving door. However, the existence of a revolving door shall not eliminate the need for a vestibule to serve any other doors adjacent to the revolving door. The purpose of this provision is to reduce the infiltration of unconditioned outside air into a building and exfiltration of conditioned air from the building to the outside.

Read the BECP Code Note Vestibule Requirements in Commercial Buildings to learn more.

Duct Insulation and Sealing Requirements in Commercial Buildings

The provisions of the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) applicable to commercial buildings, the 2012 IECC commercial provisions, ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standards 90.1-2007 and 2010, and the 2009 and 2012 International Code Council (ICC) International Mechanical Code (IMC) all provide requirements on the insulation and sealing of duct systems. The purpose of the requirements is to minimize heat loss or gain through ducts, and ensure that the air that is supposed to be delivered to the conditioned spaces actually makes it to the intended destination within the building.

Requirements for ducts located outdoors and in unconditioned space along with guidelines for plan review and on-site inspection are discussed in the BECP Code Note Duct Insulation and Sealing Requirements in Commercial Buildings.

Further Information on Code Compliance

Other recently published Code Notes include

More Code Notes are available on the BECP website.

Code Tips: 

Code Tips for Piping Insulation

The 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) has expanded requirements for piping insulation in both residential and commercial buildings. Residential provisions in the 2012 IECC contain a new prescriptive provision (Section R403.4.2) requiring all service hot water pipes to be insulated with a minimum of R-3 insulation in the following situations:

  • Any pipe larger than ¾-inch nominal diameter
  • Piping that serves more than one dwelling unit
  • Piping from the water heater to a kitchen outlet
  • Piping located outside the conditioned space
  • Piping from the water heater to a distribution manifold
  • Piping that is located under a floor slab or is buried
  • Supply and return piping in a recirculation system that is not a demand system

Piping not meeting those situations must be insulated to at least R-3 as well, or have a maximum length of travel as a function of pipe diameter. These new requirements limit heat loss from pipes subject to conditions conducive to heat loss or that serve frequently used fixtures, and encourage tank/piping layouts that minimize “stranded” hot water in pipes serving less frequently used fixtures. These measures are prescriptive, not mandatory–Section R405 allows the designer/builder to not comply with the requirements as long as the annual energy cost of the building, as designed, is no greater than that which would result if these provisions were satisfied.

For commercial buildings, piping insulation requirements in the 2012 IECC (Section C404.5) for service hot water have also been revised. New provisions add heat-trace systems to those that must be insulated, while the pipe insulation requirement (at least 1 inch of insulation having a conductivity less than or equal to 0.27 Btu per inch/h × ft2 × °F) remains unchanged. An exception to Section C404.5 has also been added, stating that heat-traced systems must meet the manufacturer’s requirements for insulation thickness; however, any untraced piping within a heat-traced system must be insulated to the level prescribed in Section C404.5.

Software Tips: 

Q: When using the REScheck performance path with ducts located in a residential building attic, according to the 2009 IECC, the ducts need to be tested.  Is there a place to input the test results in REScheck and is there credit given for using tighter ducts?

A: REScheck does not accept air leakage (blower door) or duct leakage test results because the performance path in REScheck makes some assumptions about the building geometry and thermal zones. To accurately model the impacts of duct leakage and air leakage, additional building information and geometry details would be required. These inputs would greatly increase the complexity of the software and are not currently supported.

Q: Why are there compliance figures (percentages) for envelope and lighting but not mechanical on the COMcheck report?

A: Most of the mechanical requirements in the IECC that apply to commercial buildings are very prescriptive in nature. The major exception is the higher efficiency equipment/economizer tradeoff allowed in more recent editions of ASHRAE Standard 90.1 and the IECC. COMcheck does implement this tradeoff. Other than that, COMcheck uses the mechanical inputs to remove code requirements that are not applicable to the systems as described by the user from the mechanical inspection checklist. If COMcheck did not do this, the mechanical inspection checklist would have a very large number of mechanical code requirements that did not apply to the particular building. COMcheck does ensure that users do not enter mechanical equipment efficiencies lower than the prescriptive baseline. COMcheck will not allow the user to generate a compliance report with reported equipment efficiency lower than that baseline.

Users who wish to trade off the mechanical requirements must use a whole-building performance compliance path–either the Energy Cost Budget Method in Chapter 11 of ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010 or the Total Building Performance Method in the 2012 IECC commercial provisions. COMcheck does not implement either of these. Instead, COMcheck implements the ASHRAE 90.1-2010 Normative Appendix C Methodology for Building Envelope Trade-Off for the envelope. For lighting, COMcheck implements the method selected by the user–either the whole-building method or the space-by-space method that functions as a lighting tradeoff method.

Specific questions about REScheck and COMcheck may be submitted to the BECP Online Help Desk.