Commercial Energy Codes Support Program

Researchers
Megan Hoye, LEED AP
Term
2015-2018
blueprints

Update: October 2022

Permit applications are reviewed with a focus on 30 energy code measures. Code officials are given a report that includes detailed analysis of each non-compliant or indeterminate measure identified. The report may then be used in a way that best suits current procedures, whether that means sending the full report PDF to the applicant or transferring the comments into the city’s plan review software. The program is not currently enrolling new participating cities but hopes to utilize lessons learned to inform future commercial code support activities.

Overview

Center for Energy and Environment developed this pilot program to test the potential to cost effectively achieve CIP program savings by providing guidance and technical assistance to designers and/or city plan reviewers, in an effort to improve compliance with the Minnesota Energy Code. The overall goal of the project was to establish a local precedent for utility-funded energy code compliance enhancement programs in Minnesota that could serve as a model for the development of full-scale programs, and to evaluate the pilot program so that valuable information and recommendations from the experience are available to utility staff and CIP program regulators.

Methodology
The team focused on two dozen energy code line-items, chosen because of their high energy impact and/or expectation of relatively low compliance — these targeted items represent about 16% of all energy code requirements, and were chosen based on reviews of previous studies of compliance, interviews with code officials in other states that are already enforcing a similar combination of energy codes, changes from the previous energy code, and an engineer’s line-item review of the likelihood of an item being overlooked.

Below, key elements from each of the pilot program approaches are provided:

Pilot I
Design team support for small, simple buildings:

  • Focused on specific building types and limited sizes to reduce program development and delivery costs.

  • Included a kick-off meeting to provide early design phase guidance, the delivery of a one-page quick-reference guide for program-targeted items, on-call technical support, and design review services that were available prior to the completion of construction drawings.

  • A total participant incentive of $775 was split between the designer and the building owner. Recruitment efforts focused on local designers.

Pilot II
Plan reviewer support for large, complex buildings:

  • Energy code plan-review services were provided to city staff at the same time that construction documents were submitted as part of a building permit application.

  • City staff were given a report summarizing the compliance and documentation status of targeted items with information about each deficiency, to clarify what was wrong or omitted, and what to request from the designer to achieve compliance.

  • Design review services were provided to three cities that partnered on the pilot program proposal before it was funded. Implementation was coupled with ongoing evaluation efforts to measure program performance and guide future iterations of similar programs in Minnesota.

Results

The pilot program demonstrated the potential and actual achievement of significant energy savings with a cost-effective CIP program designed to increase compliance with targeted portions of the Minnesota Energy Code. Projects that didn’t receive program support had nearly half of the targeted energy code line-items either non-compliant or with insufficient design detail to determine compliance. The recruitment of projects to receive design team support fell short of participation goals, with one-third of the pilot program’s total per-building costs used on recruitment efforts (46% if the incentive cost is included). On the other hand, the participation of projects receiving city support for plan review exceeded the target with recruitment costs that were 10% (or less) of the total pilot per-building cost.

The analysis of program potential and actual impacts was based on 16 projects that received city plan review support, eight “control” projects that were used for baseline comparison purposes, and 12 projects that received design team support

Project Summary

Objective

  • Set a precedent for a viable energy code compliance enhancement program in MN.
  • Test two program approaches that are focused in scope to maximize cost-effectiveness.

Scope

  • Deliver the programs to 40+ buildings across three pilot cities.
  • Recipients of service: Architects and engineers, city officials, building developers and contractors.

Non-energy benefits

  • Reduce city staff time required to review energy code issues.
  • Reduce design and develop teams’ costs for late-stage changes.