Energy Code Requirements: What Towns Need to Know
On March 20, 2014, town representatives from throughout the Windham Region met in the Townshend Town Hall to receive information on recent legislative changes related to the Vermont Energy Code (Act 89) and municipal requirements and opportunities to promote energy efficient construction in their communities. The event was sponsored by Efficiency Vermont in collaboration with the Windham Regional Commission.
The economic, social, and environmental benefits of energy efficient buildings are clear. Energy efficient structures typically cost their occupants less on their utility bills (particularly heating and cooling), maintain healthier and more comfortable living conditions, and reduce environmental impact. In support of energy efficiency’s many advantages, Act 89 establishes Residential Building Energy Standards (RBES) and Commercial Building Energy Standards (CBES). While there are a few exceptions, these Energy Codes apply to most new construction as well as additions, renovations, and repairs. The law was originally established in 1997. In 2009 the Vermont Legislature passed the Vermont Energy Act of 2009, increasing its standards to comply with the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The revised Energy Codes took effect in October 2011.
This law requires that builders self-certify their structures upon completion. While municipalities are not responsible for enforcing the Vermont Energy Codes, they are required to provide RBES and CBES information when a building or zoning permit is applied for. The Energy Code Assistance Program provides distribution materials for this purpose. Additionally, buildings that require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) must be certified with RBES and CBES compliance before the CO is given. There are a number of opportunities that towns can take to go beyond the minimum requirements of the Energy Codes to increase public awareness and encourage participation in Above-Code programs which are designed to exceed the minimum standards for RBES and CBES. Such opportunities include education and promotion of Above-Code Programs (pamphlets are available from the Energy Code Assistance Program), incorporation of RBES and CBES into the building permit process, town plans, and building codes, and the adoption of “Stretch Codes” which establish stricter energy efficiency standards.