What do the new 2021 energy codes from the International Energy Conservation Code mean for our industry? Quite a lot actually. The energy efficiency of buildings is the main goal of these code changes, with the hope that the efficiency of all buildings (residential and commercial) will rise by about 10 percent. This is addressed by creating higher standards for thermal efficiency and increased insulation requirements.

One of the most impactful changes, in this author’s opinion, is the increased insulation requirements. On January 1, 2021, Canada and several U.S. states enacted stringent new environmental regulations to address concerns about high-Global Warming Potential hydrofluorocarbon blowing agents. Many insulation manufacturers will need to create innovative options that either completely eliminate this blowing agent or dramatically reduce it.

Implementation of these updates is hopefully going to be easier and offer more flexibility when it comes to design and construction. Other aspects of energy that will affect commercial buildings include mandatory plug load controls (from laptops, printers, phones and lighting). Renewable energy is also at the forefront of our new codes, which will hopefully decrease our overall carbon emissions and produce enough renewable energy to reach zero-net carbon.

The 2021 code is final and more efficient than ever before. Although there is no doubt that it is going to take some time for most states to adopt this new code considering some states have only just passed the 2018 version.

As always, we’re already looking ahead to the future and what the next round of code changes could bring for our industry. Proposed changes for the 2024 International Codes were submitted on January 11. The virtual hearings for these submissions begin on April 11. The hearings offer code officials, architects, builders, engineers, designers, contractors and other interested parties the opportunity to provide input on proposed code changes. In advance of the hearings, the Code Council will release the hearing schedule and post proposed code changes on March 1.

Did you make a submission? I'd love to hear more if you did. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out with your thoughts on these code changes as more.