2016 Energy Code Watch: The New NYCECC Goes to City Hall

By Brian Redlein

Since the New York State Code Council voted to enact an update to the State Energy Code in early March, we’ve been tracking the update here at Metropolis Group.  Things are moving fast and it looks like we will actually have an updated New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC) in place on October 3rd of this year.  To recap, the new Code will be based on the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) 2015 edition and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1 2013 edition.  The current NYCECC is based on IECC 2012 and ASHRAE 90.1-2010.

To begin I must say that the updated Code is not in its final form yet and is still subject to enactment by City Council.  If anyone’s interested, the Committee on Housing and Buildings will be having a hearing on the new NYCECC on June 14th at 10 am in the Committee Room of City Hall.

To allay any fears you developers and designers might have about your zoned floor area wall thickness deductions (aka Zone Green), the City has not made any modifications to the envelope requirements in the “vanilla” IECC 2015.  As the envelope tables in IECC 2015 Chapter C4 are largely identical to the current code as they relate to walls, if a wall qualifies for the Zone Green deduction before the change it should also qualify after the change.  However that does not mean there aren’t other changes to the building envelope between IECC 2012 and 2015, such as roofs requiring R-30 continuous insulation instead of R-25.  In English that’s 6” of extruded polystyrene (aka blue foam) insulation.

Moving on, we’ll look at more specific modifications to the “vanilla” IECC 2015 being made under our new NYCECC.  Perhaps one of the more interesting provisions is that New Buildings will actually require their envelopes to be tested for air leakage.  While there are provisions for air leakage testing in the current NYCECC (C402. the requirements under the new NYCECC are quite clear:  any building over 25,000 sf will have to test in some way, with buildings at or over the 50,000 sf mark having each joint and seam in the envelope inspected with an “Air Barrier Continuity Plan” established by the architect (C402.5.1.3).

Other local changes include, yet again, local modifications to AC unit energy efficiency.  In “vanilla” IECC 2015 for example, your typical side-louvered room air conditioner, like you find in a lot of windows this time of year, must meet a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 9.7 if its total output is less than 6,000 BTUs (half a ton).  The local code however, will mandate a Combined Energy Efficiency Ratio (CEER) of 11 not only requiring higher efficiency, but taking into account standby mode efficiency as well.  While Packaged Terminal Units (PTACs) that are extremely common in residential new buildings will be under largely the same rules in NYC as they are everywhere else architects and engineers would be wise to look over the local modifications to Table C403.2.3(3) to see if any of their proposed AC units would be otherwise affected.

One last thing I must elaborate on before closing out this newsletter is that New York City has added its own efficiency requirements for Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) units.  VRF units sound exactly like what they are as they can modulate the flow of coolant to condition a space far more efficiently than non-VRF units can and they are very popular in new buildings.  Normally VRF units are basically given a relative pass on efficiency because of this, but not in NYC, as they’ll be subject to two new tables:  C403.2.3(11) and (12).

As we move through summer and things develop we’ll continue to keep an eye on the updated Energy Code here at Metropolis Group.  With the hard date of October 3rd settled we now have an exact timeframe for the updated Energy Code.  In later newsletters we’ll continue to look at the updated NYCECC and the changes between ASHRAE 90.1-2010 and 90.1-2013.