Today’s model building energy codes – which have the potential to cut utility bills for new homes and commercial buildings by tens of thousands of dollars and help stabilize power grids over their long lives – have an interesting by-product: their enhanced efficiency also reduces carbon emissions from power plants. EPA’s Clean Power Plan sets state-specific carbon emission targets and offers states four building blocks they can use to develop their menu of strategies to meet its carbon emission reduction target from existing power plants.“Using electricity more efficiently” is one of those building blocks. By adopting and enforcing better building energy codes, states can significantly cut the electricity needs of new and renovated homes and commercial buildings and reduce emissions and utility bills as well. Building energy codes already align with the criteria EPA will use to evaluate emission reduction measures, making them a logical component in State Compliance Plans:

  • Enforceability. Building codes are the law in all 50 states, with mandatory compliance inspected by local and state officials, offering numerous options for states to “true-up” the emission reductions in their plans.
  • Meeting Projected Emission Rates. Many of the construction measures set forth in building energy codes make permanent efficiency improvements that will reduce electricity consumption well beyond the Clean Power Plan’s timeframe. This calculator will help states make reasonable forward estimates of energy savings.
  • Quantifiable, Verifiable Emission Reductions. Building energy codes are already eligible for and used in State Implementation Plans that reduce criteria pollutant emissions, and there is evidence that recent gains in building energy codes are working to stabilize electricity consumption. Existing building codes offer state air quality agencies a web of local code officials, state agencies, builders and others that could be engaged in the quantification of electricity – and the related emissions – reductions attributable to building energy efficiency gains.
  • Developing a Clear Reporting Process. The extensive arena of code stakeholders provides state compliance plans with an existing avenue to engage and compile local enforcement monitoring and reporting, conduct compliance progress analyses, and set and verify the achievement of specific savings milestones.
Resources for Air Quality Officials

National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA)Impacts and Opportunities of the Clean Power Plan

Achieving Energy Savings and Emission Reductions from Building Energy Codes: A Primer for State Planning

Presentation: Building Energy Codes and the Clean Power Plan

NASEO State 111(d) Resource Hub

NRDC Summary of EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Carbon Pollution Standards for Existing Power Plants

Proposed State Emission Rate Targets

EPA Fact Sheet: Clean Power Plan | National Framework for States

Code Calculator

Click the image to download the Clean Power Plan Energy Code Emissions Calculator (Excel file).

Download calculatorCalculator Uses:
– Guidance and scoping to determine how building energy codes can contribute to meeting 111(d) targets over Phase I and Phase II timelines of 2017 to 2040.
Visualization of energy and emission savings contributing for both residential and commercial buildings.
Able to be used for State Compliance Plans for air quality and emissions-related policies
ICF International is one of the world’s leading energy analytics firms, particularly well-suited to develop this easy-to-use calculator that opens the door to eight years of data and modeling. Specifically, ICF has:

A longstanding relationship with EPA, public utility commissions, and state energy and air quality officials
Deep and unique expertise in both building energy codes and clean air policy, and the ability to interpret the language of the field, and
Extensive internal software development tools, which have been deployed for similar projects delivered to states.

The state adoption and enforcement of stronger building energy codes makes sense with or without the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan. Why?

Buildings are America’s largest energy using sector and last for generations. Because American buildings can last 100 years and currently consume 71% of electricity, 54% of natural gas, and 42% of all energy, the adoption and enforcement of strong residential and commercial building energy codes will have a demonstrable and long-lasting positive impact on U.S. energy policy. Note: U.S. homes and commercial buildings also account for 39% of man-made carbon emissions.

State code infrastructures, trained inspectors, and enforcement mechanisms already exist across the U.S. Since nearly all states have enacted and currently enforce some form of the International Energy Conservation Code or ASHRAE Standard 90.1 as part of their package of building codes and standards, their design and construction industries are accustomed to a strict level of minimum construction requirements. As a result, any additional code compliance support offered by utilities under the CPP would be augmented by trained local inspection and enforcement staff who currently oversee building code compliance.


Commercial Adoptions Residential Adoptions

BCAP Map of Commercial Adoptions

BCAP Map of Residential Adoptions


Efficiency gains in recent building energy codes (BECs) are already stabilizing U.S. electricity demand. According to Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good, significant recent efficiency gains in building energy codes, together with stronger appliance standards “appear to have broken the traditional connection between electricity demand and economic growth.” Ms. Good’s observation was predicted by a 2011 white paper by the Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE), which found that continued savings of the magnitude of recent efficiency gains in building energy codes and appliance standards “will completely offset the anticipated growth in demand in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors combined, eliminating the need for additional power plants to serve these sectors through 2025.”

In terms of carbon reductions, building energy codes have “negative cost”. (meaning that energy savings quickly recoup incremental cost of efficient features, then generate income for the home or commercial building owner). A McKinsey Co. analysis identified measures covered by BECs as having “negative marginal costs,” meaning that energy bill savings from these measures exceeds their incremental cost. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed this in a 50-state analysis projecting the net savings that would be generated over a typical 30-year mortgage term by homes built to the 2012 (and 2015) IECC. The estimated savings would be at least $4,723 (in Climate Zone 2) and as much as $33,305 (in Climate Zone 8) after fully recouping the outlays for incremental efficiency measures in one to two years.

Click on images to view larger size.


Americans want – and will pay more for – permanent building energy code features. Finally, a survey by the National Association of Homebuilders found that 9 out of 10 homebuyers are willing to pay 2-3% more for a home that includes permanent energy efficiency features. This and other consumer surveys showing support for energy codes can be found here.

Because building energy codes are state and local laws that designers, builders, and contractors are required to meet, a stronger state commitment to enforcement complemented by supporting effort by utilities would undoubtedly increase confidence that states are achieving the level of compliance included in the State Compliance Plan.


For more information on 111(d) as it pertains to building energy codes, please contact the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition.