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The Impacts of Global Policy and Codes in our Industry

Recently I was invited by Purdue University to participate in their Global Policy Research Institute?s (GPRI) lecture series to provide learning opportunities for students about global policy issues through conversations with industry leaders. In a presentation and discussion with undergraduate and graduate students I addressed environmental policies and codes that our firm and firms in our industry are required to work with. A good example is the new 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

In the past six months, ESD has made a strong effort to educate our employees and our clients on the changing energy requirements mandated by the revised IECC. Through GPRI?s roundtable discussion, I introduced students to the impacts of the IECC on the design community, the built environment, and what we as industry leaders find important in the relationship between codes and design.

Building codes exist as measures of protection. Specifically, energy codes such as the IECC are developed to produce environmental and economic benefits through building design and construction choices. However, there are design implications attached to stringent codes. Compliance with these prescriptive regulations may provide the foundation for developing efficient and optimized buildings by finding balance between the building?s envelop, mechanical, lighting, and hot water systems, but they can also be restricting on fostering innovation.

The ultimate focus of the IECC is performance-based; the goal being to influence how much energy is used by a building and to maximize efficiency. In the IECC?s attempt to influence and increase energy efficiency, prescriptive and performance requirements are placed on building materials, systems, and configuration with emphasis on a ?as-designed? or ?day-one? basis. I believe the primary focus should be on the lifetime operational performance of the building as a result of the design and a mandated energy allowance based on the building?s size, use, and occupancy.

Ideally, prescriptive codes would be redundant. As professionals and leaders, our responsibility is to facilitate efficient design by developing fit-for-purpose yet innovative and optimized total building solutions. Unfortunately, not until the majority shares this philosophy, prescriptive codes such as IECC rather than performance or operational based codes must exist.