Commercial Energy Codes Support Program

Russ Landry, P.E., Megan Hoye, Di Sui — Jan 2015

Project update

To date, a total of 28 buildings have engaged with one of the two pilot programs. Based on early feedback, the project team developed additional tools and templates to help design teams streamline documentation, and they are currently refining the process for providing comments on code compliance so that the information is easier to absorb. Full project update

Why this research is needed

While utility sponsored energy code compliance enhancement programs have been undertaken in a number of other states, program viability and cost-effectiveness has not been tested in Minnesota. Although Minnesota has high commercial energy code compliance in terms of total line-items completed, previous research showed that may not be a reliable indicator of energy performance. Recent work in New York found that the intended energy efficiency achieved was substantially lower than suggested by an evaluation of checklist items completed.

It is clear that additional energy savings can be achieved through enhanced energy code compliance in Minnesota that goes beyond traditional code training, yet no local precedent has been set. The lack of a precedent also makes utility program designers uncertain about how such a program would be received by regulators. Therefore, the lessons learned in this pilot project will be valuable for setting a precedent that informs both CIP program designers and regulators about energy code enhancement program issues in Minnesota. 

Project process and expected outcome

This pilot project will measure energy savings from two program approaches within three partner cities to address specific energy code issues in commercial buildings. The two novel program approaches will target high-impact energy code requirements that are more likely to go unnoticed. This targeting will provide significant energy impacts at low cost.

Pilot Program 1: Design team support for small buildings

The small building program will provide support to project design/development teams from early design through construction. Tools will be developed for three to four building use types (e.g. office remodel, new retail construction, etc.). The tools will focus on those code requirements with the largest energy benefit potential and the lowest compliance. Building owners and project team members will be given incentives for successfully incorporating these basic efficiency requirements. The project will also test enhanced incentives for achieving standards that exceed energy code. 

Pilot Program 2: Plan reviewer support for large, complex buildings

The large building pilot will provide city staff with technical assistance from energy engineers during plan review. This pilot will focus on complex projects, many of which require the review of building energy simulations. These simulations allow exemptions from a large number of code line-items by showing a level of performance for the building as a whole, but few city code officials have the specialized energy expertise or time to review these submittals. Third-party energy specialists will support code enforcement professionals so that “extra efficient” design features and comprehensive energy performance are clearly understood. They will also aid in determining compliance at the plan review stage, and will develop a checklist tools with detailed guidance for city staff.

We expect that these two program approaches will achieve significant energy savings compared to “control” buildings with cost-effectiveness that will be viable to investor owned utilities.

*This project supported in part by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources through the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) program. And with co-funding by CEE in support of its nonprofit mission to advance research, knowledge dissemination, and program design in the field of energy efficiency.

Image Credit: Penn State

Project Info



  • 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.

Utility Implementation

  • The successful portions of this pilot could be transferred to utility funded programs.
  • The program could be expanded to additional building types and measures.


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

Non Energy Impacts

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

City of Blaine 
City of Minnetonka
City of St. Louis Park

CEE Contact
Russ Landry, P.E.


Interim Report

MN Energy Code

PRESENTATION: Supporting energy design performance thru code compliance

PDF: Project Description 

PDF: Service Overview for Project Teams​