Why Yes, Another Energy Code Change!

By Brian Redlein

On March 9th, in a very gray room in Albany, the New York State Code Council voted to enact an update to the State’s Energy Code.  The upside is we have until late September, not June as previously thought, to prepare for the change.  The downside is that we’ll have a new Energy Code to deal with and we may wind up on the State’s standards for a while if New York City can’t enact its own in time.

The new Energy Code will be based off of a modified version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) 2015 edition and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1-2013.  To provide some background the current State and City Energy Codes are based of the IECC 2012 and the ASHRAE 90.1-2010.  At this time, we don’t have a clear picture of what the State’s modifications to these standards will entail, which means we don’t know what the final version of the City’s Energy Code will look like when all is said and done.

What we can do is look at the past to try to glean the future.  Looking at the differences between IECC 2012 and 2015 reveals some clues as to what’s coming.

Our first stop is the tables in Chapter C4.  These are arguably the most critical because they determine how insulated, and hence how thick, a wall must be.  Now, again, we don’t know if the State or City will make changes to these tables yet but I am happy to report that the tables in the 2015 IECC look nearly identical to the 2012 IECC.  This should mean that if a wall passes code in August, it will still pass code in September.  I know this will be of critical importance to all you designers and developers out there that depend on the exterior wall thickness zoned floor area deduction.

Going further into Chapter C4, the table governing building glazing values looks familiar to the 2012 IECC, but with one major change – fenestration now must take orientation into account.  Glazing on the south, east, and west sides of a building will have to meet more rigorous standards than the glazing on the north side.

Also added to Chapter C4 is a bunch of math.  Applicants will no longer have to reach deep into the ASHRAE 90.1 or the ASHRAE Fundamentals handbook to find calculations for wall R and U values.  In fact our reliance on ASHRAE Appendix A table A3.1D to calculate the de-rated R value of insulation in a stud wall could be superseded by the tables and calculations provided in the latest IECC.  For many of us, as esoteric as it is, this is a good thing.  As I’ve covered the ASHRAE Appendix A in earlier newsletters, some of you may recall table A3.1D has a tendency to “break” Comchecks.  Without passing Comcheck, I don’t meet code so I can’t even approach the DOB for an energy code review unless the computer says I’m good to go first.

One last item I’d like to point out in 2015 IECC Chapter C4 is the vestibule requirement, which hasn’t changed much over the years.  However added in 2015 was a revised exception which allows air curtains to replace vestibules.  This could be a boon to some spaces in the city that are over the 3000 square foot mark but want to save room by ditching the vestibule.  Hopefully that one will make it into the local Codes.

In later newsletters we’ll discuss more changes between the 2015 IECC and 2012 IECC in regards to mechanical and lighting systems and we’ll discuss changes between the ASHRAE 90.1-2010 and the 90.1-2013.  By comparing the codes we should be able to discern the contours of what the new code will look like.  Now let’s hope the State and the City don’t mess with it too much.