Commercial Buildings Perform Approximately 30% Worse than the Code Requires

Posted on 3/2/2015 3:19:03 PM By Paul Bertram

While attending Greenbuild last October, I sat in on a session where the results of the Rhode Island Energy Code Compliance Baseline Study (2012) were presented. I found this study interesting as it contained a specific breakout focused on the Building Envelope and air sealing as it related to code compliance and actual performance. The paper was sponsored by National Grid and the State of Rhode Island Office of the Building Commissioner.

The principal research objectives of the study were:

1. Estimate statewide energy code compliance rate for commercial buildings.
2. Provide feedback on patterns of compliance and non-compliance.
3. Identify opportunities for Rhode Island in the quest to achieve 90% compliance with energy codes.

Overall code compliance for new construction in Rhode Island was estimated at approximately 70% (unweighted) compliance.

  • This result does not mean that 70% of commercial buildings comply
    • NO buildings were fully in compliance
  • On average, commercial buildings perform approximately 30% worse than the code requires, and, by extension, use 30% more energy than fully compliant buildings.
  • Considering that efficiency programs strive for 15-20% performance improvement
    compared to code, this 30% gap is significant

Sample Design: Study Team used the most recent four years of construction data to obtain a sample large enough to yield the targeted number of completes.

paul bertram, building

statewide energy compliance, energy compliance, building energy

commercial energy code, energy code, energy code compliance

Building Envelope Observations and Comments

  • Continuous Air Barriers
    • Air barriers are very difficult to verify
      • Review of plans to gather data on air barriers were conducted with building design teams and owners
    • It was determined that a continuous air barrier was typically specified
      • However, the design documents often lacked the detail to assure that the barrier would effectively meet code
    • It was also impossible for the field team to determine whether installation was in accordance with the design documents.
  • Air Sealing
    • Exposed penetrations of the envelope were observed to be or were seemingly properly sealed.
    • Air sealing of enclosed areas within envelope assemblies were difficult to field verify
  • Lack of Continuity of Air Barrier
    • Penetrations of the air barrier were not sealed.
    • Air barrier was not continuous through joints and assemblies.

Opportunities for the Adhesive and Sealant Industry

  • Provide a building scientist to periodically offer training on envelope assemblies specific to air sealing
  • Facilitate trainings or seminars on new adhesives and sealant materials to help keep building officials knowledgeable about the pros and cons of new products
  • There is still room for improvement in commercial compliance for air sealing documentation and installation practices
  • Be aware of incentive programs through the States or Energy providers
  • Assist Regional Energy Efficiency organizations in validating technical feasibility of enhanced measures

Regional Energy Efficiency Resources:

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