Alternative Approach to Developing Baseline Data Using Energy Code Compliance Reports

Application of Commercial Sector Code Energy Code Compliance Documents for Assessing Baseline Practice 

Attempts to understand energy end-use baselines for different technologies are critically important for: understanding current practice in the marketplace, determining energy efficiency technical potential, developing effective efficiency programs, and properly evaluating new construction and lost opportunity programs. Unfortunately, there are considerable challenges in develop accurate baseline data: secondary sources of data may have limited applicability and collection of primary data with appropriate detail can be very costly. This presentation discusses an alternative approach to development of baseline data that uses energy code compliance reporting documentation.

During the past several years there has been an aggressive effort to promote state adoption of new and more aggressive energy codes. To date, more than 50 percent of US states have adopted new energy codes. In the commercial sector, one requirement of most states’ energy code compliance reporting process is the submission of ComCHECK EZ software reports. Such reports include a summary of some of the key energy performance features and technologies, demonstrating that submitted new construction designs do indeed meet code mandates.

This presentation describes an ongoing effort that uses these compliance documents to assess baseline characteristics. The focus of this current effort is on lighting systems since this end use is frequently captured in considerable detail in the ComCHECK software and is shown in output reports. Documentation reports present whole building or space-by-space lighting power density, and may show specific details of types of technologies used in each building space. Since there is a legal requirement for submission of the described compliance documents, this information should represent a comprehensive source of recent activity describing the current practice and the baseline in a region.

Even with legal requirements in place, there are some significant challenges that arise associated with gathering and using the data. Compliance reports, which are generally submitted to local towns or municipalities, may not be of public record, or may be unavailable for numerous reasons. Additionally, the quality of the ComCHECK software and the resulting reports can be highly variable, and data gathered from such reports must be carefully scrutinized. It is also typical that the designed condition as represented in the compliance reports may be dramatically different than the as-built condition. There are also many new construction projects that get built without ever having followed energy code compliance requirements: these may not have associated reports and there may be no record of their compliance (or lack thereof).

This presentation will discuss the details of our efforts to use the compliance reporting documents for the assessment of baseline practice. We will describe numerous aspects of the process such as the ability to gain access to the reports, the quality of reports, content detail or reported design data, limitations of the documents, and the general effectiveness in their use in baseline development. We will also describe associated site data collection efforts conducted to confirm compliance document accuracy. Finally, we will comment on the frequency of new construction projects that do not comply with the requirement to submit ComCHECK (or equivalent) reports.

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