Why Building Energy Codes?

Building energy codes represent a significant savings opportunity for U.S. home and business owners. Model energy codes1 for residential and commercial buildings are projected to save (cumulative 2010-2040):

  • $126 billion energy cost savings
  • 841 MMT of avoided CO2 emissions
  • 12.82 quads of primary energy

These savings equate to the annual emissions of:

  • 177 million passenger vehicles
  • 245 coal power plants
  • 89 million homes2

For perspective, the primary energy consumption of the entire U.S. commercial and residential sectors in 2015 was estimated at 38 quads.3

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. residential and commercial buildings account for approximately 40% of all energy consumed.4 Building energy codes, which govern up to 80% of a building's energy load,5 increase energy efficiency and yield significant savings for the U.S. economy. Efficient buildings reduce power demand, and have less of an environmental impact, and put money back into consumer's pockets.

The Purpose of Building Energy Codes

Energy codes and standards set minimum efficiency requirements for new and renovated buildings, assuring reductions in energy use and emissions over the life of the building. Energy codes are a subset of building codes, which establish baseline requirements and govern building construction. Code buildings are more comfortable and cost-effective to operate, assuring energy, economic and environmental benefits. The reduction in energy expenditures also correlates to a mitigated dependency on foreign oil, impacting national security. In light of these fundamental environmental issues, economic challenges, and uncertain energy costs, building energy codes are a key component of sound public policy.

The Benefits of Building Energy Codes

It is estimated that by 2035, 75% of the building stock in the U. S. will be new or renovated.6 As a building's operation and environmental impact is largely determined by upfront decisions, energy codes present a unique opportunity to assure savings through efficient building design, technologies, and construction practices. Once a building is constructed, it is significantly more expensive to achieve higher efficiency levels. Energy codes ensure that a building's energy use is including as a fundamental part of the design and construction process; making this early investment in energy efficiency will pay dividends to owners and occupants for years into the future.

Who benefits from energy codes?

  • Consumers and homebuyers can be assured that they have purchased or rented a home that meets minimum standards for energy efficiency, and as a result will see significantly lower utility bills.
  • The construction industry can have a documented advantage over existing homes, as well as a level playing field, with respect to minimum energy efficiency requirements.
  • Code officials can be confident that new and renovated buildings are designed and built to meet industry standards for quality and comfort, thus improving consumer protection.
  • Utilities can benefit from supporting energy codes through access to cost-benefit data to use in determining future investments and attribution of savings to efficiency programs. Additionally, codes can provide better energy forecasting and decreased peak demand.
  • State and local governments can reduce energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions, while ensuring that their constituents live and work in comfortable buildings with low utility bills.


1 As defined by statute, the model energy codes are the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for residential buildings, and ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1 for commercial buildings (42 USC 6833)

2 EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator

3 EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2016, Energy Consumption by Sector and Source (Table A2)

4EIA Annual Energy Outlook

5DOE Buildings Energy Data Book

6Architecture 2030