Outcome Based Energy Codes

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Buildings are responsible for 40 percent of total energy consumption in the United States and 68 percent of electricity use, but conventional prescriptive or modeled-performance energy codes employed by cities and states today do not encourage widespread retrofits that would reduce total energy consumption attributable to the built environment. The one-size-fits-all approach of energy codes does not recognize the inherent strengths and weaknesses of individual buildings, often creating challenges for historic buildings by prescribing changes that can compromise their historic character and detract from their value.

Additionally, the majority of lifetime building energy consumption is determined by how buildings are operated and occupied, yet current codes do not provide post-construction accountability for actual energy performance, which would encourage occupants to use buildings in more responsible ways. So while current energy codes may either discourage retrofits or drive changes that undermine the value of a building, they do not guarantee improved performance.

In partnership with the City of Seattle, the Preservation Green Lab has pioneered a new “outcome-based energy code” for Seattle that is intended to serve as a national model for energy codes that achieve verified results. The new Seattle code includes a Performance Target approach for new buildings and an Operating Energy Alternative for existing buildings – both pathways provide flexibility for building owners and designers to pursue innovative retrofit strategies that will provide the highest return on investment. In exchange, owners agree to reach a pre-determined energy performance target and provide post-construction measurement and verification to ensure that energy reduction targets are achieved.

Learn More about Outcome Based Codes

Want to understand more about the Outcome Based Energy Code framework? Please see our Outcome-Based Energy Code Two-Page Summary and our White Paper: Toward a Future Model Energy CodeThree case studies, The Vance Building, The Terry Avenue Building, and 1510 Melrose, explore the need for a new energy code frame work to address the need of older and historic buildings.

Or, if you’re interested in learning more about energy codes generally, our Energy Codes 101: A Primer for Sustainability Policy Makers provides a good overview on the basics of energy codes.

Learn More about the Seattle Pilot Project and the Vulcan Supply Laundry Demonstration Project

As a leading innovator in green building policy, Seattle is fertile ground for pioneering a new Outcome Based Energy Code Framework. Since 2010, the Green Lab and City of Seattle have been conducting a demonstration project to evaluate the innovative energy code framework in three historic real estate projects. Learn More