Conference paper

You can’t make bricks without straw: building a residential energy code support program from a utility perspective

05 Aug 2016

Improvements in building energy codes cannot be fully realized unless targeted stakeholder education, training and outreach is provided to support increased understanding of and compliance with the minimum requirements. With Michigan’s adoption of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), an analysis determined statewide annual energy savings of approximately 480,000 MMBtu and $4 million in annual utility bill savings for homeowners from bringing below code residential new construction up to minimum requirements. It can be cost prohibitive to improve building envelopes in existing buildings, which is why it is critical to address these measures through new construction building codes. Therefore, the two utilities serving the greater Michigan area (DTE Energy and Consumers Energy) conducted in-depth code official interviews, followed by site visits of single-family homes under construction to assess energy code implementation. This paper presents an approach developed to assess the energy savings and benefit-costs associated with implementing an energy code education, training and outreach program in Michigan.

The method focuses on the unique needs and perspectives of the utility stakeholders, while still aligning with the methodology outlined for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Residential Energy Code Field Study conducted in nine other states. The sample design approach focuses the survey efforts on construction characteristics with the greatest variability and/or impact on energy use, reducing the number of site visits and study costs. State level results are presented, and highlight an attribution model developed for allocating utility territory level savings. The authors also discuss the applicability of this approach to the residential and commercial new construction and major renovation markets.

While small, the study did reveal opportunities for enhancing new home performance in leading to measureable energy savings. The majority of savings would be generated by improving wall insulation and high efficacy lighting in newly–constructed homes. Additionally, a codes support program would provide new ways to support the construction and code official communities across the state. Additionally, the relative cost of projected savings is fairly low compared to other energy efficiency programs. Further, additional savings opportunities exist in enhancing the air sealing performance of new homes relative to Michigan’s newly-enacted residential energy code.


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American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy