Preservation Green Lab Partners on New Energy Code Framework

Posted on: May 19th, 2010 by Patrice Frey

Curious about what we’ve been up to lately in our Seattle-based Preservation Green Lab? Check out this post on the blog Worldchanging by Julia Levitt, who writes about our work with the city of Seattle and New Buildings Institute on outcome-based energy codes.

Most cities and states have prescriptive energy codes, which require certain energy efficiency elements in major renovations or new construction – like insulation or windows with a particular efficiency rating. It turns out these codes do a poor job of encouraging owners to retrofit their commercial buildings; their “one size fits all” approach often doesn’t recognize the inherent strengths and weaknesses of individual buildings, and can create challenges for historic buildings in particular by prescribing changes that can compromise historic character. Prescriptive codes also tend to squelch innovation because they don’t allow for new approaches to energy reduction.

The Preservation Green Lab is partnering with the City of Seattle and the New Buildings Institute to pioneer a new energy code compliance framework (for both new and existing buildings) based on actual post-construction performance outcomes. With outcome-based codes, building owners will have the flexibility to pursue whatever retrofit strategies they deem appropriate for their individual buildings, but in return are required to achieve a pre-negotiated performance target on an ongoing basis.

The ultimate goal of an outcome-based code framework is full accountability for energy performance of all buildings, with complete flexibility in how to achieve it.  What works in Seattle will work in other places – and the goal is to replicate this innovative model code throughout the country. Have a look at Worldchanging for more insight.

Patrice Frey is the deputy director of the sustainability program at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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