With all the focus these days on the Smart Grid and renewable energy, it’s sometimes easy to miss one of the most important aspects of energy use: efficiency. While attention and funding is most often funneled towards finding new economical and environmentally friendly energy sources, sometimes it’s working with what we have that can make all the difference. Case in point—the 30% Solution 2012 (www.thirtypercentsolution.org/index.php).
What is the 30% Solution? Developed by the Energy Efficiency Codes Coalition (EECC), the 30% Solution campaign involves the creation of a set of standard building codes designed for optimal energy efficiency—with the ultimate goal of increasing efficiency by 30% over the previous 2006 goals. Last week, more than 500 state and local officials voted to formalize the EECC’s 30% Solution via changes to the nation’s model energy code as a way to achieve the 30% energy savings goal set by the Department of Energy (DOE).
The ultimate aim of the 30% Solution involves developing a set of standards, to be employed on a national level, that address “virtually every part of new home energy efficiency,” including HVAC, thermal envelopes, and hot water heating. The EECC views “The 30% Solution 2012” as “the next step in a dynamic process of transforming the energy efficiency of America’s housing sector, which uses over 20% of America’s energy, 40% of its electricity, and accounts for 20% of US greenhouse gas emissions.” The idea is that by promoting more stringent building codes, the construction industry—and the country as a whole—can capitalize on the opportunity presented in new development projects: the chance to “lock in” energy savings at the initial construction level when they are “the least expensive and easiest to implement.”
Some of the specific building elements zeroed in on by the EECC include:
* Window efficiency: New windows can improve thermal envelopes and provide for cost-effective insulation improvements.
* Insulation: Improved ceiling, foundation, and wall insulation can improve thermal envelopes and reduce HVAC costs.
* Programmable thermostats: for improved temperature controls and more efficient management of the indoor environment
* Building envelopes: improved building seals to reduce heating and cooling losses and reduce wasted energy from leaky heating and cooling ducts
* Water Heaters: new hot water distribution systems designed to reduce wasted energy and water in piping
* Improved lighting efficiency
So what do you think? Without any enforcement or official government mandate, can the EECC’s standards really influence future construction and property development? Or can the burden of building codes—with their associated inspection and certification requirements—compel participation? And—DOE requirements aside—is there enough incentive to comply with the IECC standards when the ultimate beneficiaries—the commercial building owners and new homebuyers—are usually not part of the initial project planning and construction?