by Andrei Moldoveanu, Program Manager, NEMA
The NEMA High-Performance Buildings Council’s (HPBC) Codes and Standards Review Committee has been deeply engaged in the past three years preparing for a successful 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) revision cycle. Many NEMA Member companies heavily invest in the future of high-performance buildings. The basis of building performance relies on strong energy codes and Standards being adopted by state and local jurisdictions.
Through the coordinated efforts of NEMA staff and Members, the 2021 IECC cycle saw an unprecedented energy-efficiency gain estimated at over 10 percent above the most recent 2018 IECC version thanks to a focus on advanced controls and a systems- and controls-based approach to whole-building performance. Furthermore, many of these code changes promote not just energy efficiency but building electrification, grid stability, occupant health, comfort, productivity, reduced operation and maintenance costs, and other benefits of modern building technologies. This is a significant achievement for the code, NEMA Members, and the building of the future.
“With the energy code updating only every three years, and the opportunities it offers to increase building efficacy, NEMA Members had a lot at stake,” said Harold Jepsen P.E., Chair of the Codes and Standards Review Committee. “It was important we began our efforts early, stayed on top of the rigorous process, and supported a strong NEMA presence, before, during, and following the two separate week-long hearings.”
Key successful building performance measures supported by NEMA included:
- Automatic lighting controls for interior and exterior lighting in residences
- Improved lighting efficacy metrics for lamps and luminaires
- Fault detection and diagnostic systems for HVAC systems of larger buildings
- Automatic receptacle controls in offices, workstations, conference rooms, classrooms, and other spaces most benefiting from receptacle control
- Energy monitoring by load types in larger buildings
- More efficient lighting power allowances for lighting designs
- Improved and expanded daylight response control areas
- Parking garage controls, further increasing operational efficiency
- Measures for home electrification readiness
- EV charging capability and readiness for both commercial and residential buildings
Although not thought of as a life safety code, the IECC targets the health and safety of the building’s occupants. For example, energy codes mitigate the occurrence of rot, mold, and mildew by controlling airflow, temperature, and moisture. Access to daylight can aid productivity and improve general feelings of well-being. Electrified buildings have fewer concerns about carbon monoxide and other combustion by- products that can be harmful to human health.
NEMA worked with several organizations to develop consensus on its own proposals and also on other code proposals relevant for its Members. Organizations were engaged in amending proposals to increase their chances of success during the committee hearings and, ultimately, the governmental final ballot. Key industry partnerships were developed to assist in educating International Code Council voting Members on the benefits of the NEMA proposed requirements.
Wayne Stoppelmoor CEM, NEMA High-Performance Buildings Council Chair, remarked, “The NEMA partnership with organizations who share NEMA Member goals on energy efficiency and building codes was an important component in the success of NEMA- supported proposals.”
Digging into the Process
The length and unpredictable pace of ICC hearings requires an immense amount of patience, team coverage coordination, and preparedness as well as a clear understanding of the code development process outlined in the Council Policy on Code Development. Understanding this process is also necessary to develop successful proposals, comments, and testimony during the hearings. Early and engaged involvement with the various ICC committees, key industry partners, and veterans of the code development process provided additional insight and guidance on how to be an effective contributor and trusted ally.
NEMA membership on a code development committee enhanced the position and status of NEMA as a relevant and credible thought-leader in the building performance space. The IECC development committees that vote on each proposal during the hearings had been missing, until now, a representative of the electroindustry that could serve not only as an advocate for those proposals of interest to our industry but also, more importantly, as a unique technical expert in this field.
“The ability to contribute to committee discussions, initiate motions, and vote on proposals was a real game changer, and another spoke in our wheel of success this code cycle,” noted Bryan Holland MCP, AStd, NEMA Senior Field Representative and member of the ICC Commercial Energy Code Development Committee.
The NEMA HPBC Codes and Standards Committee (CSRC) played a clearinghouse role for all proposals generated by individual Sections. The Council itself is a horizontal NEMA group supported by NEMA Sections with common interests in advancing technological progress in the building environment.
The Revision Cycle
As expected, the IECC is a prime target for the HPBC given that many electrical products are involved in energy distribution, its control, and consumption. In the first phase of the three-year revision cycle, the CSRC collects proposals from Sections and its own Members. It vets them first internally and then through all NEMA before submitting them for the NEMA Codes and Standards Committee’s approval as NEMA proposals.
Caption| NEMA team at the 2019 Committee Action Hearing. L to R: Wayne Stoppelmoor, Schneider Electric; Bryan Holland, NEMA Field Representative; Mike Stone, NEMA Field Representative; Michael Jouaneh, Lutron Electronics; and Harold Jepsen, Legrand. The entire team contributed to this article.
After the IECC publishes all proposed changes, the CSRC reads them all and determines which could be of interest to NEMA Members. For this IECC cycle, Members reviewed 267 proposals for the Commercial Code and another 229 for the Residential one. For each, with the help of the Sections involved, they prepared an implementation plan for the public Committee Action Hearing.
The proposals, as submitted or as modified, are approved or rejected during this hearing, and the rationales for those actions are then published by ICC. A second, very intense stage of the CSRC preparation starts as Members review each decision and decide to support or oppose the committee decisions. Comments are drafted, and another round of internal NEMA vetting follows, ending with NEMA C&S approval and submittal of the comments.
All the comments received are published by ICC staff. Preparations for another round of hearings follow. Many comments are again individually reviewed: 289 for the Commercial Code and 232 for the Residential one. Preparations for the Public Committee Hearings take place. Those are quite special since participants’ positions are not always firm until the hearing. “The CSRC Members are getting better at anticipating those possibilities and adjusting on the fly,” remarked NEMA Senior Program Manager Andrei Moldoveanu.
NEMA as a Resource
Besides NEMA, there were several organizations at the IECC hearings that submitted proposals involving electrical equipment. Examples include proposals for electric vehicle charging equipment, residential lighting controls, and electrification (i.e., installing electrical circuits and outlets for optional use at gas appliance locations). NEMA Members and staff were able to share their electrical expertise with these organizations and helped them craft their proposals using industry- common language. The resulting proposals were technically correct and aligned with the National Electrical Code® (NEC) requirements. Nearly all were ultimately approved and will be in the 2021 IECC.
During the hearings, questions often arose regarding aspects of electrical equipment and electricity in general. The questions came from those giving testimony as well as from committee members asking for further information. NEMA was able to be a resource for the hearing attendees and committee members and address their concerns.
“Load calculations, voltage drop, types of lighting controls, electric vehicle supply equipment details, and NEC requirements were examples of topics that participating NEMA Members and staff helped clarify,” said Mike Stone, NEMA Field Representative, about the electrical industry expertise contribution NEMA made to the process.
This is just the beginning. A new revision cycle is around the corner. Many others will follow. Learning from successes and failures, improving the NEMA process will give Sections the possibility to maximize opportunities to grow markets and promote the electrification of buildings while helping states and municipalities achieve their energy performance goals. ei