Energy Codes Reduce GHG Emissions, Study Claims

A new study measuring the impact of building codes on household energy consumption found that building energy codes have actually reduced household energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.  The Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) study looked at states energy usage from 1986 to 2008 and found that states that adopted federal building energy codes reduced household energy usage by 10 percent and household greenhouse gas emissions by 16 percent.

The study also found that states adopting the codes, which encouraged the use of highly efficient natural gas heaters and electric heat pumps, shifted their energy use away from oil and wood fuels towards lower-emissions natural gas. Residential buildings consume 22 percent of U.S. primary energy use and produce 21 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, so the ultimate potential impact of building energy codes is substantial, according to the study.

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Most states have adopted Department of Energy-recommended model codes, which first came about in 1992. A number of other states have written their own standards. Seven U.S. states – Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming – do not have mandatory building energy codes. Other states such as New Mexico and Maine are considering reverting to less stringent codes.

The CPI analysis is part of a broader project to evaluate the impacts of building policy in key regions around the world. In addition to the U.S. study, a CPI Berlin Project indicates that targeting policy at different stages of the retrofit decision process may help Germany meet its target of 80 percent reduction in residential energy use by 2050.

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Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.