The building energy code continues to stretch

July 14, 2023 | Jim Meyers, SWEEP Buildings Program Director

It’s amazing what happens in three years in the building energy code space. In Colorado, we have seen a nonstop effort to stretch the energy code to achieve even more energy savings above the nationally developed International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). In July 2020, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) released our version of what an electrified energy code could look like in our states. This report was written to stretch the 2018 IECC and include codified language for jurisdictions to adopt electrification requirements into their energy code for new buildings and major renovations. The following year the New Buildings Institute released their Decarbonization Code which provides electrification language for the 2021 IECC and ASHRAE 90.1

Since this time SWEEP and other stakeholders have been educating industry, government, and stakeholders on how electrification applies to the building codes, the benefits, and reasons for these additions to the codes.

During the 2022 Colorado legislative session, House Bill (HB) 22-1362 was passed and signed into law. This greenhouse gas emissions bill also set into play the updates of building energy codes in Colorado including stretch code provisions for adoption with the IECC. 

In June 2023 the State of Colorado released their Model Electric Ready and Solar Ready Code. The creation of this first of two codes is part of HB22-1362 requirements to move electrification paths into future code adoptions in Colorado. Today, local jurisdictions must adopt at least the 2021 IECC, plus electric readiness, and electric vehicle (EV) readiness and solar PV readiness when adopting other building codes. A low-energy and low-carbon code will be part of the adoption mix starting in July 2026.

While the work has been ongoing at the state level, SWEEP and others have been bringing jurisdictions together to adopt amendment packages of electrification requirements locally through a cohort process where communities come together to develop their own model electric readiness codes.  

The following communities are adopting electrified versions of stretch codes across Colorado. Communities moving toward these requirements include:

  • Electric ready: Vail, Fort Collins, Estes Park (in progress, will be Colorado model code), Aspen (residential), Aspen (commercial)
  • Electric preferred: Erie, Northglenn, Denver (residential)
  • All-electric space and water heating: Denver (commercial), Louisville (commercial), Erie
  • All-electric: Crested Butte, Lafayette
  • Existing buildings/electric space and water heating at time of replacement: Denver (commercial)
  • Existing buildings/require a bid for electric equipment: Avon, Minturn, Town of Eagle, Eagle County (in progress, same language as Avon), Aspen 

And other communities in the electrification pipeline today include Edgewater, Gunnison County, Westminster, Broomfield, and Longmont.

Addressing national codes, the IECC and the International Residential Code are in the final days of the 2024 IECC development. Within those pages many supporters of building electrification may see similar electric readiness requirements for heating, cooking, water, heat, and EVs.

The future of codes is in a never ending update and improvement process to simplify, improve energy efficiency, streamline compliance, and support the design professional. One thing is certain, electrification requirements are an essential part of residential and commercial buildings of the future.