Do Green Codes and Standards Get in the Way of High-Performance?

What’s The Situation?

High-performance homes sometimes require practices that code officials are unfamiliar with. This lack of familiarity can lead officials to improperly interpret and apply building code to prevent the implementation of high-performance building techniques. Additionally, green codes and standards sometimes encourage practices that aren’t in the best interest of high-performance building techniques.

Building America’s Take:

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The following observations were made about energy codes and standards and their relationship to high-performance construction techniques:

Fundamentally, in this order, codes should at least:

  • Not require the wrong thing
  • Not prevent the right thing
  • Discourage the wrong thing
  • Encourage the right thing

Current code is not always the problem. Often, it’s the interpretation and application of code. Better guidance for builders and code officials based on Building America research results may be all that is needed in many cases.

  • Performance, not Mandates. Prescriptive codes target single measures, whereas performance codes take a building-as-a-system scientific approach. The latter approach is essential. Better insulated construction assemblies, for example, have no tolerance for drying. A performance-based code would address this.
  • Retrofit Issues. New construction codes are reasonable. Codes for existing construction are often challenging for both builders and enforcers.
  • Interpretation Issues. Sometimes, code isn’t the issue: it’s the sub-organizations referencing the code and their standards (i.e. BPI, ASHRAE, ANSI, ENERGY STAR, LEED).

Derived from responses by Janet McIlvaine (BA-PIRC), Pat Huelman (NSTAR) and Duncan Prahl (IBACOS) at the 2012 Building America Technical Update Meeting.codes1web