Another Energy Code Change?

By Brian Redlein

Barely over a year ago, New York State enacted its own localized version of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and New York City followed closely after with its own modifications to the state’s modifications.  By law, New York City must have its own energy code and getting the industry to adapt to the latest version of the 2014 New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC) has been frankly challenging, to say the least.

All that said, the 2012 IECC is almost four years old now and as the energy code gets swapped out nationally every three years many planning jurisdictions are already enforcing the 2015 IECC.  Part of the reason the energy codes get swapped out every three years is because the IECC’s provisions for commercial buildings (including multiple dwellings) are fundamentally based on the body of knowledge established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1 which itself gets updated every three years.  Many of the jobs here at Manhattan New Buildings are done under ASHRAE 90.1-2010 rules, which is starting to look positively ancient as the 90.1-2013 standard has been out for a while now and we’re on the hook for another 90.1 update this year.

Because it takes the International Code Council two years to adapt the 90.1 to become the IECC, states and cities with their own local codes derived from the IECC lag even further.  This is one of the reasons NYS has been pushing to get on the IECC 2015 sooner rather than later.  The best way to maximize the energy performance of a building is to design it under the most up-to-date energy codes, and as we are all increasingly aware the City and State are very keen on keeping it green.

So the problem for New York City becomes clear.  If the State mandates an energy code change it becomes the law of the land, even here in NYC.  The word is that the State Code Council will vote to adopt the 2015 IECC on the 9th of this month and then everyone in New York State will have 90 days from the day of the vote to prepare for the new Energy Code before it becomes actively enforced across the land.  Now the City can move even slower than the State and the mere 90 day grace period proposed will make things rather difficult for us.  This leaves the City practically no time at all to create its own version of the code, educate us on all the changes, and have it enacted by sometime this summer in time for the State code change.

We’ll be keeping close track of the Energy Code update here at Metropolis Group and in later newsletters I’ll illuminate on some of the changes coming in the ASHRAE 90.1-2013 and the IECC 2015 that could have an impact on multiple projects still on the drawing board.  If owners and designers want to avoid this code change, it is highly advised they file complete drawing sets with either all four Comchecks, a full energy model, or a complete tabular analysis before summer.  Otherwise our only hope for a stay will be if the City can convince the State to wait until later this year or early next year to enact the change.  Walls might be getting even fatter with insulation come summer.