Significant Advances in Washington State's Energy Code

Washington State will have one of the nation's most efficient energy codes with the recent approval in November by the state Building Code Council of a package of amendments. These amendments go into effect in July 1, 2016. The major amendments for commercial building requirements include the following:

Commercial efficiency measures

- requires commercial projects to implement two high-efficiency options from a menu, which may include high-efficiency HVAC systems, lighting, lighting controls, renewable energy, water heating, envelope U-values or air tightness. Average energy savings are projected at about 1 kWh per square foot per year.

Dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS) - this cluster of four energy code amendments will change the way HVAC systems are controlled in several common building types and should have a significant impact on energy savings. Together, they eliminate simultaneous heating and cooling of the same space, separate the air supply for ventilation from the heating and cooling function, regulate the intake of outside air and require heating and cooling systems to turn off when not being actively used. Under pressure from industry and building designers, additional flexibility for variable air volume (VAV) systems was granted, andthe effective date was pushed back one year to July 1, 2017

Outlet controls - requires half of the electrical outlets in offices and classrooms to be controlled by occupancy sensors or automatic time clocks, making sure that devices such as monitors, personal sound systems or desk lamps shut all the way off when no one is there. Average annual energy savings are projected at 0.5-0.6 kWh per square foot.

Lighting requirements - reduces the power allowed for lighting by about 20%, which will require deployment of highly efficient LED lighting. This type of lighting is already quite cost effective and rapidly becoming more so; LED quality is improving even as prices continue to fall rapidly. Average annual energy savings are projected at 1.2-6.0 kWh per square foot, depending on the fixtures and hours of use. Amendment not adopted L - With lobbying from the concrete masonry wall industry a proposal to end the exemption from wall insulation requirements was defeated. This marks one of the very few areas in which Washington lags behind national standards. *Thanks to NW Energy Coalition reporting in the January edition of the Energy Activist Update.