John Busch LEED AP BD+C, CLCATT, regional sales manager, southwest, Leviton
Mike Houston director, Atrius Applied Solutions, Acuity Brands Lighting
Harold Jepsen PE, vice president of standards and industry relations, Legrand

Industry experts share the most important points distributors need to know about key energy codes like the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)/Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) 90.1 and California Energy Commission (CEC) Title 24 as well as the lighting and other products that can help achieve compliance.

IMARK NOW: Please explain some of the energy-related codes and regulations affecting construction professionals and building owners.

Harold Jepsen, Legrand: ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1 is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-developed commercial building standard developed jointly by ASHRAE and the IESNA.

This standard is the federal baseline for commercial building efficiency and is the established energy efficiency code for government, state and municipal buildings as well as the standard used for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings.

IECC and ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1 are model energy efficiency codes/standards that are widely adopted by states and municipalities throughout the United States. The IECC, first introduced in 2000, is one of a suite of codes managed and published by the International Code Council (ICC) and contains both residential and commercial building provisions for energy-efficient construction.

The IECC allows ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1 to be used as an “alternate compliance path” or as a substitute code for compliance, as long as the entire code is applied (e.g., one can’t pick and choose provisions between one and the other for compliance, but rather must only use all of the provisions from one code). As these are model codes, states and municipalities often alter or amend provisions within these standards to best suit their needs for adoption. Some adopt a model code, or its amended version, and name it as their own code. Since 1978, however, California has had its own energy efficiency standard—Title 24, Part 6—which is not based on any model code. Within all of these standards are the electrical power and lighting systems requirements, which mandate the energy efficiency of such items as electrical conductor voltage drop, lighting and controls, transformers, motors, receptacle controls and lighting power density as well as other electrical energy-consuming building elements.

IMARK NOW: Do these codes generally apply to new construction or alterations of existing facilities?

Jepsen: The energy efficiency codes apply to new construction and when an existing building undergoes an alteration or addition. The codes also apply in two other circumstances—when heating or air-conditioning is added to a building which was previously not conditioned and when a building changes occupancy use type.

IMARK NOW: How are these codes enforced (if applicable) and what happens if a building isn’t in compliance?

Jepsen: Enforcement is the responsibility of local building departments and is usually done at both plan check and during field inspection. Building departments will often require the submission of a REScheck or COMcheck software report with the building plans to demonstrate design compliance; both REScheck and COMcheck are free, government-supported software programs. If a building doesn’t meet the design requirements at plan check, a building permit can be withheld, and if a building in the construction phase is found to be non-compliant, the building official or department can withhold issuance of a certificate of occupancy (CO) until compliance9 is met. After a CO is issued, there are typically no follow-up compliance requirements.

IMARK NOW: How would you assess the rate of adoption for these codes across the United States?

John Busch, Leviton: The multi-colored map above offers a quick look of what’s been adopted nationwide, how energy code adoption and enforcement vary across the country and how strict some states are getting with energy code requirements (reflected by the fact that their standards exceed the requirements of ASHRAE 90.1). Overall, there are several versions of IECC and ASHRAE 90.1 that are used across the United States. California uses Title 24, Part 6, which features the most stringent requirements and is recognized as the leading-edge of all of the energy code requirements. While there are a lot of similarities between ASHRAE 90.1 and IECC, ASHRAE 90.1 has adopted many of the requirements of energy-efficient strategies from Title 24, Part 6, so you’ll usually find that ASHRAE 90.1 is a little more stringent than IECC. As these energy codes continue to evolve, each revision refines the requirements that must be met in order to comply, which continues to drive the requirements and development of cost-effective, user-friendly lighting control solutions (which can be among the simplest solutions to implement in order to make a space more energy efficient).

Another energy code requirement that has begun to be adopted by ASHRAE 90.1-2013 and 2016 is submetering of specific load types for the purpose of allowing the utilization of a building’s power to be measured and properly managed. While Title 24, Part 6 doesn’t require submetering of various load types, it does require load disaggregation of 10 different load types.

Jepsen: The federal “Energy Policy Act of 1992” requires states to have minimum energy codes for both residential and commercial buildings and states implement their own code adoption processes. Some states like Colorado, Missouri and other “home-rule states” allow the local municipalities to decide which energy efficiency codes will be adopted. The majority of states will adopt a statewide energy efficiency code for minimum compliance, yet often allow local jurisdictions to implement more stringent codes for themselves. A good example of this is Washington State, which has typically amended a current version of the IECC to make it more stringent; the result has become a new code version specific to themselves called the Washington State Energy Code. The city of Seattle, however, has historically created its own Seattle Energy Code, which has been even more stringent than the Washington State Energy Code. The bottom line is that from state to state, different codes, different versions and different variations of the minimum energy codes can be adopted. Thus it’s important for our electrical community to be knowledgeable about the specific codes in their local areas. Generally, the newer the code, the more energy efficient or stringent.

Busch: Many jurisdictions have adopted a version of the IECC or ASHRAE 90.1, both of which also require functional testing of the HVAC/mechanical systems, as well as lighting control systems. Most municipalities that have adopted IECC recognize ASHRAE 90.1 as an alternative compliance standard. ASHRAE 90.1-2016 is considered to be equivalent to the 2018 IECC and the majority of states have adopted a version of IECC.

The U.S. Department of Energy recognizes the ASHRAE 90.1-2016 version as the national energy reference standard and by Feb. 27, 2020, all states must adopt a code as stringent as ASHRAE 90.1-2016.

IMARK NOW: What does the future of energy codes hold for both their adoption and the role of the electrical industry?

Jepsen: Future energy efficiency codes and their adoption offer more opportunity for the electrical industry to help buildings reduce energy use, pollution and operating costs. Although buildings can be designed and constructed to be far more efficient than current energy code standards, meeting current minimum code requirements pragmatically balances the design, construction and investment with the benefits of energy efficiency.

Ultimately, the electrical industry plays a big part in leading this future. From the development of new technologies by manufacturers to the value-added services and knowledge provided by educated electrical suppliers and the skills of the electricians who install the products, the entire electrical industry chain has and must continue to move forward with building energy efficiency. In the end, it’s not the energy efficiency codes but rather the electrical and other trades that are moving the ball and enabling codes to continue improving the standard of efficiency.


IMARK NOW: What are some key product categories that will be helpful to customers seeking to comply with these codes?

Mike Houston, Acuity Brands Lighting: An increased emphasis on controllability and continuous dimming makes lighting controls a key product group that can support compliance. Lighting power densities are most greatly impacted by luminaire efficacy and lighting design and there are also some lighting control strategies that, while not mandatory in some cases, make code compliance more palatable for many commercial occupants as well as easier to install. Examples include products such as individually controllable luminaires with embedded controls (sometimes referred to as luminaire-level lighting control), preset scene controls and continuous dimming used where not specifically required by code.

Products that ease integration to building automation systems can also reduce the overall cost burden of code compliance by allowing one component to be used by multiple building systems. An occupancy sensor used by both the lighting as well as the HVAC system is a good example of this.

Busch: As it pertains to lighting controls, there are multiple ways to help customers achieve code compliance. Among these:

  • Sensors are the first line of defense for meeting energy code requirements. Newer versions of the codes are requiring sensors as the mandatory control solution in more and more spaces.
  • Photocells or light sensors are very prominent in the energy codes. They can be standalone for some very basic daylight harvesting controls or can be used as part of a larger or more complex system.
  • Room controllers meet multi-level control requirements for dimming, occupancy/vacancy sensing, partial on, partial off, daylight harvesting, receptacle control or plug load control and demand response.
  • Wireless solutions allow customers to install solutions without having to run more wires. Wireless sensors offer occupancy or vacancy sensing and multi-zone daylight harvesting capabilities with no additional wiring and, for additional flexibility and scalability, can be added as business needs require and budgets allow.
  • Integrated and intelligent fixture control systems allow one installation to deliver individual luminaire and multi-zone control with dimming, occupancy/vacancy sensing, daylight harvesting, and scene control for a future-proof system that can be configured to meet ever-changing business needs.
  • Relay panels or centralized systems are perfect for meeting time-of-day or time switch requirements. Relay panels can be standalone or networkable; standalone relays are ideal for smaller-scale applications that require simple scheduling (like open office areas, warehouses, parking lots, parking garages and façade lighting), while networkable relays can be connected to a building management system and are ideal for controlling large groups of loads like parking garages, site lighting and open office areas that need to be controlled on and off or simply reduced automatically by time of day. These are ideal for advanced dimming, daylight harvesting, demand response, part night time and intricate advanced scheduling capabilities.
  • Distributed controls provide more flexibility and granularity of control with addressable devices.
  • Energy monitoring is now required in ASHRAE 90.1-2013 and 2016, where measurement devices must be installed in new buildings to monitor energy use for total energy, HVAC and interior and exterior lighting as well as receptacle circuits. Submetering solutions comprehensively address meter hardware, data acquisition products and web-based software to meet energy metering requirements for data acquisition, storage and reporting.

Overall, there are multiple ways to meet the intent of the code and achieve compliance, from the use of sensors and room controllers to centralized and distributed controls. Most projects will include a combination of all of these types of systems—in some spaces, you may just have an occupancy sensor, in your offices you may have a room controller or distributed control and then you’ll use a centralized control system in spaces like open office areas, parking garages and corridors.


IMARK NOW: What kind of support can IMARK members provide to their contractor customers regarding the codes?

Busch: There’s tremendous value in having localized expertise and those distributors with dedicated control specialists who truly understand the respective energy code requirements will be able to add value versus their competition. Being able to understand local energy and building codes and helping their customers select the right products for their projects will help distributors establish themselves as the go-to solutions providers for energy codes as well as products and services.

Jepsen: Some of the more technically-challenging electrical areas of the code are the lighting control requirements, because different spaces or room types have different lighting control requirements. Knowing which rooms require occupancy sensors or which ones allow timeswitch or time-scheduled control are important to helping customers choose the right product.

For instance, manual on, partial auto on, partial auto off, daylight-responsive and shut off control requirements may overlap in the same room. The ability to suggest product(s) that not only deliver compliance but are simple for customers to install and configure can make all the difference in helping installers to avoid callbacks.

Steering customers to the old tried-and-proven product(s), because that’s what you know, may result in customer dissatisfaction if a newer, more applicable product solution would have confidently and efficiently delivered compliance.

IMARK NOW: What resources can distributors turn to for training and to help support customers with energy code compliance?

Jepsen: Distributors should take advantage of energy efficiency code training, which is often offered through local association chapters, skills development programs or manufacturer representatives. These training sessions typically occur around the time that new energy efficiency codes are adopted in a local area. In addition, some manufacturers offer great content designed to support product selection and project design and help ensure that distributors offer their customers the right solution.

Busch: In addition to manufacturersponsored resources dedicated to helping distributors and other industry professionals understand the nuances of energy codes and code-compliant design, the U.S. Department of Energy Building Energy Codes Program offers helpful resources at energycodes.gov/training and energycodes.gov/resourcecenter/training-catalog. The California Energy Alliance is dedicated to improving the industry’s understanding of and compliance with Title 24, Part 6 at caenergyalliance.org/.

Houston: ASHRAE conducts training throughout the year. Visit ashrae.org/professional-development for the schedule of upcoming 90.1 compliance training courses. Many lighting and lighting controls manufacturers also offer both training as well as IECC/ ASHRAE/WSEC/CA T24 application guides to help people through compliance.

Susan Bloom
Susan Bloom is a 25-year veteran of the lighting and electrical products industry. Reach her at susan.bloom.chester@gmail.com.