The Future of Green Building Codes

>However, as buildings get more and more efficient, elements such as building operation and occupant use make up a bigger slice of the building performance pie.

Even for buildings that commit to stringent building standards, there’s a large range of outcomes, Frankel says, as to how those buildings eventually perform based on factors that currently are almost entirely outside the purview of the building code.

For example, in a recently retrofitted office building engineered for high performance that Frankel profiled, plug loads made up nearly half of all the energy the building consumed. “That has nothing to do with code, and it doesn’t even have that much to do with operation,” Frankel said. “It has to do with the occupants.”

As a result, it’s these areas—operation and tenant behavior—that are going to see most of the action in code policy discussion in coming years, he says.

“We have to find a way to engage operators and occupants in this discussion,” he says, “or we are never getting to net zero.”<

The Knowledge Builder

In many discussions of building performance, it’s builders and architects that are forced to take all the heat for buildings’ carbon footprints. But that wasn’t true of a recent presentation given by Mark Frankel, technical director of the Vancouver, Wa.–based New Buildings Institute, titled “Codes Standards and Rating Systems,” delivered at the recent Vision 2020 Sustainability Summit in Washington, D.C. While Frankel noted that there’s certainly more that can be done in design and construction to improve how a building will perform, “there’s not as much room left in building design as we’ve already captured,” he said.

That’s not to say there’s not still a long way to go. In the United States, the building sector is still the highest contributor to greenhouse gasses. And many builders and architects have yet to fully embrace the high-performance building practices that Frankel emphasized are available. “We have the technology…

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