Many changes have taken place in the building envelope in order to keep pace with the requirements of the International Energy Conservation Code and programs like LEED. The innovations that have occurred in the opaque elements of the building may have been maxed out for now. We can’t push them too much further with our existing materials and technologies without adopting significantly thicker walls and other Passive House like design concepts. If we’re to hit our continued stretch goals for reducing energy consumption, the greatest opportunity seems to lie with the active elements of the home. – Things that actually pull energy from the grid. The great news is, as those technologies continue to improve they have the potential to turn “passive” houses into net positive. But let’s save that discussion
for another time.
With the introduction of the third path to compliance in the residential provisions of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code, we can now take advantage of all the technologies in a home to get to the essence of the code intent- reduce the amount of energy required by a home to keep the occupants comfortable, healthy, and satisfied. In case you are wondering “why is he talking about a two year old code?”, it is because that is the latest rendition of the code and the one currently being considered for adoption by these individual and United States.
The third path to code compliance, the Energy Rating Index (ERI), really opens up the playing field to innovation and recognizes there are all types of things that can contribute to the energy efficiency of a home. Measures like adding more building insulation, using cool roofs in specific locations and creating an efficient envelope are a good and required start. From that point on, however, it is left to the creativity of the designers, builders, and occupants to mix and match technologies and efficiencies to craft a solution which satisfies their responsibilities both personal (fiduciary and otherwise) and societal (the energy conservation code).
With the ERI, the energy related component of the code has created the conditions which offer a greater chance for successful innovation in the stuff we plug and wire into our homes. Every manufacturer will admit to the difficulties in upselling innovation. The predicted challenges are often enough to kill an innovation project before the product is even created. The ERI makes it possible to flip some of the old value propositions on their head. Now we can do real value engineering and not just cost cutting.