Step 2. Identify a Code Support Infrastructure

Utilities can play several roles in support of building energy codes. Examples include partnering with states and localities during code adoption to fill information gaps, providing analytic support, and engaging stakeholders.

Utilities also can help educate the building and enforcement communities about specific requirements contained in new codes.5

Description

Before adopting or revising an energy code, it is important that state and local governments assemble an advisory body comprising representatives of the design, building construction, and enforcement communities as well as interested stakeholders. This collection of individuals serves as the code support infrastructure that determines which energy standards and model energy codes should be adopted. The group also considers the need to modify codes and standards to account for local preferences and construction practices. During the adoption process, this body may serve as a point of contact for information on the code and as an entity to raise public awareness of the benefits of code adoption.

When establishing a code support infrastructure, it is important to be inclusive. Begin with a stakeholder group that includes, at a minimum, affected government agencies and departments, local building professionals, and special interest groups. Successful code support typically results from the presence of the following stakeholders in the adoption process:

  • Architects, lighting designers, mechanical and electrical engineers and other design community representatives
  • Builders and contractors
  • Building code officials and other code enforcement agencies
  • Building owners and operators
  • Local elected officials
  • A range of city staff representing building, planning, and other affected departments
  • Homebuilders association members
  • Tradespeople, home inspectors, and raters
  • Utility companies
  • Industry and manufacturers for the building industry
  • Energy and water conservation specialists
  • Interested community activists and representatives
  • Federal agency staff, including BECP.

Developing a diverse support infrastructure encourages public acceptance of an energy code adoption or update. Resources 1, 2, and 3 in this step provide information on identifying stakeholders, finding support for adoption legislation, and effectively speaking to legislators. Ideally, the group will work together to establish goals, educate stakeholders, and encourage code outreach. Resource 4 in this step is a state compliance, implementation, and enforcement guide with helpful information on collaboration.

Recommendations

Establish Goals

Selecting or developing the appropriate code for adoption is contingent upon setting clearly articulated state or local goals with specific, measurable objectives. Goals are usually established by elected officials with support from municipal departments, such as planning and building. Other key stakeholders are included in the process to gain consensus on the goals. Once clear goals have been established, energy codes are adopted to codify the goals and to offer a timeline and guidelines for accomplishing objectives.

Educate Stakeholders

Providing education and training to stakeholders within the code support infrastructure during the planning of an energy code is a critical step in the adoption process. Education provides the foundation for a common understanding of the intent and technical requirements of the energy code. It is beneficial to provide education and training to code-adoption decision makers, enforcement entities, industry stakeholders, compliance assessors, and to some degree, the public. To be most effective, education and training needs to target the full range of audiences, providing timely, critical information on the code in an acceptable format and package based on audience needs and area of focus.

There are three distinct phases for education and training delivery.

  1. Pre-adoption education and training supports the informational needs associated with securing adoption of an energy code. Education during this phase should focus on the differences between current practice under the existing code and the new code and the subsequent value that will be delivered with adoption. This phase of training works best when implemented with an outreach component that solicits public inquiry and comment.
  2. Once the code has been adopted and an effective date has been set, those responsible for implementation must be educated on the scope and technical attributes. At this point, education and training must deliver clear information on code-specific measures and facilitate discussions that lead to an understanding of energy code scope and application.
  3. The third phase of education and training comes after the date the code goes into effect. It is very similar to post-adoption training, but typically includes more knowledgeable industry discussion related to specific needs. For example, an architect may want to discuss compliance choices in greater detail to better understand the best approach for a building type or occupancy. Education and training in this phase can also support compliance by delivering targeted information on assessment protocol, documentation, and code effectiveness. A formal feedback loop should be established between compliance and education to provide direction for future training based on actual field observation and documentation of compliance issues.

Education and training should be an integral part of energy code development, adoption, and delivery. Strategic education and training supports a clearer understanding of the code and can help ensure that the goals of the code are fully realized.

Outreach Should Be Addressed With a Phased Approach

  1. DURING ADOPTION, outreach messages and collateral should be broadly focused. For example, outreach should include early recognition of a new energy code, provide consistent information on the adoption process, and discuss the value it will provide to adopting entities and stakeholders.
  2. POST-ADOPTION AND IMPLEMENTATION outreach should continue to provide a consistent message, solicit feedback for continuous improvement, and develop supporting documentation such as case studies. The purpose of outreach at this phase is to generate support and to engage a process for feedback that improves provisions of future codes and encourages construction that both meets and exceeds the minimum code.

Encourage Outreach

Similar to training, outreach can help ensure that any energy code-related activity or event is purposefully vetted and supported. Outreach can be considered the underlying structure or basis for all dialogue, discussion, training, and collateral that is initiated or generated in support of the code.

Developing an outreach plan is one of the first steps to take when looking to adopt an energy code. An outreach plan deploys the message of the code and identifies those who will benefit most from the energy code message, the timeline and venues for delivering the message, and the format in which it is presented.

Outreach should include an approach for soliciting feedback from the stakeholders and entities affected by the energy code as well as an approach for assessing the value that the energy code provides to those affected parties, such as building owners, the construction industry, state agencies, local jurisdictions, and utilities.

When adopting an energy code, a jurisdiction generally does not know the full extent of the outcome or effect. Outreach sets a path to continuously learn from the energy code endeavors and improve the communications regarding the code.

Outreach is a dynamic approach to communication and education that supports the energy code through an ongoing and cyclical process.

Outreach is developed, delivered, and adapted to foster a consistent understanding of the intent of the energy code. Resource 1 in this step provides best practice strategies for developing outreach materials and tools.

Resources

  1. Building Regulatory Capacity for Change
  2. How to Find Sponsors and Supporters for Energy Codes Legislation
  3. What Works and What Doesn't When Talking to Legislators
  4. State Compliance, Implementation, and Enforcement Guide (Iowa example)
  5. Going Beyond Code: A Guide for Creating Effective Green Building Programs for Energy Efficient and Sustainable Communities
  6. Compliance Verification Paths Report
  1. Environmental Protection Agency. Building Codes for Energy Efficiency