The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) created this Energy Code Adoption Toolkit to assist Colorado jurisdictions through the process of energy code adoption. The toolkit provides information on the benefits of adopting a more current energy code and gives tips on how to navigate the typical adoption process. It also includes several resources that:
- Detail the costs of updating an energy code
- Describe changes made in the latest version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)
- Provide example language for the adoption of stretch codes that go beyond the IECC
- Help jurisdictions verify code compliance
The resources in this Energy Code Adoption Toolkit are designed to put all of the necessary code adoption information in one place, while walking your jurisdiction through the process.
When adopting building codes, the Chief Building Official (CBO) often discusses the update with various stakeholders including the City Council, the Board of County Commissioners, and the local building community, among others. This section provides talking points for the CBO when having these discussions, in order to advocate for why adopting a more current energy code will benefit their community.
Lower Insurance Rates for Jurisdictions
The Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS) program could lead to a lower insurance rate through assigning a jurisdiction a classification from 1 (exemplary commitment to fire and building code enforcement) to 10 (not committed). This is similar to the Public Protection Classification program that is in place for fire protection, but the BCEGS program is based on building code enforcement. The assigned classification takes into account what current fire and building codes are in place, the retention of the code’s structural provisions, code official qualifications and public awareness programs. In other words, if your jurisdiction elects to adopt the latest energy code, your jurisdiction may receive a discounted insurance rate.
For more information, visit the ISO Mitigation website.
Energy Cost Savings
Any measure that is enacted in each new version of the IECC must show energy cost savings. This means that most buildings are able to see a return on investment in only a few years through the savings that are acquired through their energy bills. See the Cost Impacts of Updating Energy Codes section of this toolkit for a summary of cost savings by IECC version.
Contribution to Local Climate Action Plans
Many jurisdictions have adopted Climate Action Plans (CAP) to meet community goals related to greenhouse gas emissions reductions and resiliency. These plans often outline an emission inventory, detailing where emissions are generated in the community. Building energy consumption is consistently a large contributor to local emissions, and therefore building energy codes are a key strategy for communities to meet the goals in their CAP. CAPs may be the responsibility of another department such as Planning or Sustainability. Coordinating with this department and discussing how an energy code update could contribute to community CAP goals could create additional support for the code update.
Available Training and Software
Did you know that the Colorado Energy Office offers free training on the latest energy codes? By adopting a more recent energy code, there are many more resources to train building code officials that are often at no expense to your jurisdiction. It's also important to note that the U.S. Department of Energy only supports the most recent energy code editions in the REScheckTM and COMcheckTM software that is used for determining compliance.
CEO-sponsored recorded webinar IECC trainings are available at these two locations:
2019-2020 Webinars (accessed through Google Drive)
2018-2019 Webinars (accessed through GoToStage)
Consistency for Designers and Builders
Colorado is a home rule state, which grants jurisdictions local control over which building and energy code is adopted (though Colorado state statute requires jurisdictions to adopt one of the three most recent versions of the IECC upon adopting or updating any other building code). Since designers and builders work in multiple jurisdictions, a consistent code reduces their time and cost of designing and building to different code requirements. For production builders, it also means they don’t have to customize standard designs to comply with each jurisdiction's code. Adopting the same code requirements as neighboring jurisdictions also helps designers and builders become more familiar with consistent code requirements, likely reducing plan check correction comments or inspection items.
Flexibility for Homebuilders
In the 2015 IECC, a new compliance path was added for residential applications called the Energy Rating Index path (ERI). This compliance path was improved upon in the 2018 IECC. Builders who choose to use the ERI obtain a score ranging from 0 to 100, where zero represents a net zero energy home and a score of 100 represents a home built to the 2006 IECC. Each point in the scale represents a one percent change in the relative energy efficiency of the home; lower ERI scores equate to improved efficiency. The ERI compliance path can make it easier for both homebuilders to comply with code and for plan examiners to verify compliance.
As the IECC continues to develop through each code cycle, homes and buildings are becoming more resilient as they incorporate newer materials, techniques and technologies that come to market. Buildings are being better built with an improved ability to endure severe weather and changes in the atmosphere, including storms, moisture, temperature swings, and more. With these advancements also come increased durability, safety, and comfort for occupants who may need to shelter in place during these weather events. In its 2019 report, the National Institute of Building Sciences found that adopting the 2018 codes has a benefit-cost ratio of $11 for every $1 spent. Building codes are an extremely cost-effective strategy for making your community's built environment safer and more resilient to natural and man-made hazards.
Staying Up to Date with Building Code Adoption
In 2019 the Colorado Legislature passed HB19-1260, which requires local jurisdictions to adopt one of the three most recent versions of the IECC, upon updating or adopting any other building code. Jurisdictions can adopt codes on their own schedule, but the goal is to keep them fairly up to date without requiring new legislation.
CEO recommends adopting the corresponding edition of the IECC as part of a jurisdiction’s entire package of building codes. The I-Codes are written to be adopted together and that limits conflicts between the IECC and other building codes like the International Building Code, the Residential Code and the International Mechanical Code.
CEO has put together visual guides of typical energy code adoption and compliance processes. Processes may vary by jurisdiction but these guides give a generic view of the steps necessary to adopt and comply with an energy code, and who is typically involved to do so.
To see a map of the typical code adoption process and compliance process, click here.
NEW! CEO developed an IECC Adoption Implementation Plan to help jurisdictions implement a new version of the energy code in phases and achieve improved building compliance and understanding.
The best way to stay up to date on what is changing in the I-Codes is by joining a committee to develop the code. How can you get involved in the code development process? Throughout each code cycle there are calls for committees related to the code development process. For more information, see the ICC's call for committees.
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Scaling Multiple Code Cycles at Once
It can be daunting to move from an older edition of the IECC to a newer one, especially when skipping several code versions. CEO offers free technical assistance for jurisdictions adopting the latest energy code to help through this process. The assistance can be customized to a jurisdiction’s needs and used to help work through the adoption process. To request technical assistance, please fill out this short form: Technical Assistance Request.
2018 to 2021: There were several changes to the 2021 IECC that aim to make buildings 10% more efficient than the previous code. We created a Residential Significant Changes Guide and a Commercial Significant Changes Guide to help you learn and navigate the changes. We also created Code Comparison tables from the 2009 IECC through the 2021 IECC for Residential and Commercial.
2015 to 2018: There are minimal changes between the 2015 IECC and the 2018 IECC. This document provides an easy-to-follow guide on the significant changes for both the residential and commercial codes. For residential, the largest changes are within lighting, thermal envelope and the Energy Rating Index. Major changes in the commercial code include lighting, additional efficiency package options and thermal envelope. We also have a summary of the significant changes between the 2009 and the 2015 Commercial IECC.
There are multiple sources of upfront costs to consider when updating to a newer code. For a jurisdiction, the costs of code books, training, outreach, publishing notices and the added construction costs must be accounted for at a minimum. As new codes are adopted, the update also may require more staff to enforce provisions correctly unless the new code requirements can fit into what the jurisdiction’s staff is already implementing. It's also worth noting however, the building codes are an extremely cost-effective approach to making your community's built environment more resilient to natural and man-made hazards.
Accounting for Costs to Your Jurisdiction
- View these Residential and Commercial Code Comparison documents to see how the code has changed from the 2009 IECC to the 2021. These documents can be used to estimate the impact each measure has on your jurisdiction’s code adoption plan and decide if your jurisdiction needs more staff to implement these code changes properly.
- Find out how much your jurisdiction spends on books. Free online versions of the I-codes are available on ICC's website for the 2021 IECC and the 2018 IECC. An estimate of how much it is to purchase a set of hard copies for all of the I-codes can cost upwards of $1,000.
- Look for free training opportunities provided by the Colorado Energy Office, Xcel Energy or other local groups to offset the cost of training your staff.
- Account for marketing costs to update website information and to send publishing notices.
The initial design and construction decisions determine what the operational and maintenance costs will be for the building and therefore, it's important to look at when a building can start to see a return on investment. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) published an “Estimated Cost of the 2018 IRC Code Changes” research paper that found that adopting the 2018 codes actually decreases residential construction costs for Colorado’s climate zones when compared to building to the 2015 codes.
Furthermore, in May 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy published a study, "Preliminary Energy Savings Analysis: 2018 IECC Residential Requirements" which found that in Colorado's climate zones, homes built to the 2018 IECC will save approximately 2 percent in annual energy costs.
Stretch codes refer to adding code requirements that go above and beyond the base code, which is in most instances a version of the IECC. Below we’ve provided a few examples of codes that incorporate advanced design and technology practices. To see some examples of the advanced code language used locally in Colorado, click here.
Building Decarbonization Code
NEW! In 2021, New Buildings Institute (NBI) published a Building Decarbonization Code. Local and state governments can overlay the language in this code with the 2021 IECC to deliver carbon neutral performance for new construction. According to NBI, the Building Decarbonization Code "incorporates solutions to the inclusion of key electrification technologies including solar, electric vehicles, battery storage, and demand response and is designed to enhance building-grid integration so the buildings can be effectively used as an asset to shift times when energy is used and alleviate pressure on the electricity grid during peak demand periods. Technology choices are based on climate zone to ensure that the appropriate heating and cooling technologies are practical for the specific location."
In 2020, NBI also published a white paper, "Energy Code Roadmap for Getting to Zero Outcomes," that describes a process by which jurisdictions can incrementally strengthen building performance standards through codes over time in order to decarbonize the building sector.
Electric Vehicle (EV) Ready
An EV-ready building is constructed with the electrical capacity and pre-wiring to enable the future installation of EV charging stations. Requiring new commercial buildings to incorporate EV-ready infrastructure can save thousands of dollars—or up to 80 percent of the cost—when compared to retrofitting a commercial EV charging station. Making a new single-family home EV-ready during construction can be several hundred dollars cheaper than retrofitting it in the future. CEO recommends that jurisdictions add an amendment or ordinance to require EV-ready infrastructure in residential and commercial new construction. By doing so, your jurisdiction will be set up to abide by the EV requirements in the 2021 IECC.
The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) developed an EV Infrastructure Building Codes: Adoption Toolkit that answers common questions about EV building codes and electrical capacity requirements, infrastructure costs, and includes sample language and instructions for how jurisdictions can easily add EV-ready amendments into their code.
Solar ready buildings are designed and constructed to facilitate and optimize the installation of a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system for future use. Solar ready code language can minimize expensive infrastructure upgrades in the future, ensuring the feasibility and optimization of solar PV installation and placement. In Appendix CA of the 2018 IECC, there is code language already available and ready to adopt as part of the base code for jurisdictions.
Zero Energy Appendix
The Zero Energy Appendix provides a model for applying new renewable energy generation when new buildings add electric load to the grid. This appendix is not mandatory unless adopted by a jurisdiction.
ZERH (Zero Energy Ready Homes)
A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) is a home that meets all of the criteria found in the DOE ZERH National Program Requirements. DOE ZERH are verified by a qualified third party and are at least 40% to 50% more energy efficient than a typical new home. This generally corresponds to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index Score in the low 50s, depending on the size of the home and region in which it is built. All DOE ZERH are so efficient that the addition of an onsite renewable energy system can offset most or all of the home’s annual energy consumption.
All-Electric New Construction
As the electrical grid decarbonizes due to an increasing supply of renewable energy generation, municipalities and counties looking for ways to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels have adopted ordinances or building codes that require newly constructed buildings to be all-electric. There are currently more than 40 jurisdictions in California that have passed all-electric new construction mandates, in addition to dozens of cities across the U.S. that are considering such a move. Building beneficial electrification involves installing energy-efficient electric equipment—such as heat pumps for space heating and cooling, heat pump water heaters, and induction cooktops—in place of combustion-fueled (typically propane or natural gas) equipment. Benefits of electrification include better indoor air quality, safety from gas leaks, savings from no first costs of natural gas infrastructure installation, as well as fewer emissions from a cleaner electrical grid.
SWEEP's report, Building Electrification: How Cities and Counties are Implementing Electrification Policies (July 2020) provides case studies from a dozen local governments on how they adopted code language to advance beneficial electrification.
International Green Construction Code (IgCC)
The IgCC provides a comprehensive set of requirements intended to reduce the negative impact of buildings on the natural environment. It is a document which can be used readily by manufacturers, design professionals and contractors. What sets it apart in the world of green building is that it was created with the intent to be administered by code officials and adopted by governmental units at any level as a tool to drive green building. With that said, unless your jurisdiction has the staff to enforce the entire IgCC, then it may be worth looking through the IgCC and only adopting sections that align with your community’s goals to start. The IgCC covers a variety of topics, including indoor air quality, energy, water, waste, materials, operation and more.
High Performance Energy Codes around the Country
In addition to stretch codes implemented in Colorado, below are some examples of stretch codes or custom codes being used elsewhere that could be used for inspiration.
- NYStretch Energy Code 2020
- California’s Title 24, Part 6
- British Columbia, Canada Energy Step Code
- New Buildings Institute Zero Energy / Carbon Codes
- Passive House US
International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (IWUIC)
The unrestricted use of property in wildland-urban interface areas is a potential threat to life and property from fire and resulting erosion. The IWUIC is a model code that that can be adopted by a jurisdiction in addition to their building and fire codes. The objective of the code is to establish minimum special regulations to safeguard life and property from wildfires and to prevent structures from spreading to wildland fuels, even in the absence of fire department intervention.
Benchmarking refers to measuring a building’s energy consumption. Enacting building benchmarking ordinances are becoming a more common approach for jurisdictions to increase transparency and accountability for how buildings use energy, and they can help cities achieve their climate and sustainability goals. Cities such as Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins in Colorado as well as cities across the country including Boston, Chicago, Des Moines, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., have passed ordinances requiring building owners to report their energy use on an annual basis. In addition to tracking energy use, some jurisdictions also include requirements to track and report water consumption. The data is often shared on a publicly-accessible online map or database.
The majority of programs stipulate that building owners enter their data using the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, a free energy, water, and waste management software tool. Buildings can receive an ENERGY STAR score, on a 1 to 100 scale, which compares a building’s energy performance against similar buildings across the country. A score of 50 represents the median, while a score of 75 means that the building performs better than 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide.
Many ordinances require reporting for buildings that meet a minimum square footage, for example buildings 25,000 square feet or larger. Benchmarking programs enable building owners to identify buildings that use more energy and water, evaluate cost-effective savings opportunities, and prioritize investments in efficiency upgrades. Some jurisdictions have also enacted performance standards which require buildings to meet a minimum ENERGY STAR score or to conduct efficiency assessments or upgrades.
Here are links to benchmarking programs across Colorado:
- Boulder’s Building Performance Program; Ordinance No. 8071
- Denver’s Benchmarking Program
- Fort Collins’ Building Energy and Water Scoring; Ordinance 2018-144 - The Building Energy and Water Scoring program requires transparency of energy and water efficiency of commercial and multifamily buildings 5,000 square feet and above.
We’ve compiled the following resources to support the energy code compliance process.
NEW! CEO developed an IECC Adoption Implementation Plan to help jurisdictions implement a new version of the energy code in phases and achieve improved building compliance and understanding.
Troubleshooting Code Interpretation Guide - This guide provides explanations for some commonly-asked questions on how the 2018 IECC interacts with the other I-codes and how to interpret mechanical, electrical, envelope and additional efficiency package code measures. It also provides clarification on compliance and enforcement roadblocks that multiple jurisdictions across the state of Colorado have encountered.
Plans Examiner Checklists
Building Inspector Checklist: 2015 IECC available for purchase
Guides for verification of Manuals J, D, S and N are provided on ACCA’s website or follow these cheat sheets:
- Preliminary Energy Costs and Savings Estimates: 2018 IECC Residential Requirements (April 2019)
- Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of the Residential Provisions of the 2015 IECC for Colorado (February 2016)
- Energy and Energy Cost Savings Analysis of the 2015 IECC for Commercial Buildings (June 2015)
- National Cost-effectiveness of ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2013 (January 2015)
- 2015 IECC Determination of Energy Savings: Preliminary Technical Analysis (August 2014)
- Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of the 2009 and 2012 IECC Residential Provisions – Technical Support Document (April 2013)
The following is a list of websites that provide helpful resources for energy code adoption and compliance:
- International Code Council and the Colorado Chapter of the ICC
- ICC Code Adoption Resources
- Department of Energy's Building Energy Code Program
- New Buildings Institute
- Building Codes Assistance Project
- National Association of Building Sciences
- Insulation Institute
- National Fenestration Rating Council
- Air Barrier Association of America
- Office of Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency
- Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP)
- National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)