Step 3. Review the Design

Plan review is one of the most important activities a code official undertakes.

A building design that passes plan review has a good chance of meeting the requirements of the energy code when it is actually constructed, as long as the builders and contractors working on the building follow the plans. Getting the design right is a key first step.

Code officials enforcing the energy codes will review a number of construction documents. The following information, with sufficient clarity to indicate location, nature, and extent of work proposed should be included in residential construction documents:

  • Insulation materials and their R-values
  • Air sealing details
  • Fenestration U-factors and solar heat gain coefficients.

Commercial documents should include the items above as well as:

  • Mechanical system design criteria
  • Mechanical and service water heating system and equipment types, sizes, and efficiencies
  • For HVAC, economizer description, equipment and system controls, fan motor horsepower, and controls
  • For ductwork and piping, sealing, insulation, and location
  • For lighting, fixture schedule with wattage and information on controls.

Plan review is a relatively straightforward activity IF all the necessary information is available on the plans and specifications. If the required information is not available, it can be a long, drawn-out activity. Code officials should not hesitate to ask for more information if they do not find what they need. Construction plans and specifications can be complex and the information may or may not be readily identifiable. DOE is currently upgrading a lot of its code support materials and software to put more of the burden on the designers and less on the code officials.

For example, rather than asking the designer to check a box that states that the building has an air barrier as required by Section C402.4.1 of the 2012 IECC, the new approach asks the designer to provide the location of information in the plans and specifications that can be used to confirm if the building has a proper air barrier.

This simple change in approach is expected to eventually make plan review much less burdensome to code officials.

In the future (possibly in the not-so-distant future in some jurisdictions), designers will be able to use computer aided design systems with building information modeling (BIM) capabilities to design their buildings and those systems will also have the ability to review for code compliance as the building is designed.

A topic brief has been prepared on this view of the future (Resource 3).


  1. Residential Mechanical Equipment Loads and Sizing
  2. Additional Efficiency Package Options in the 2012 IECC
  3. Building Information Modeling and Demonstrating Code Compliance