The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is the official code adopted by the State of Texas to meet energy efficiency requirements for the design, construction, and renovation of buildings. Maintained by the International Code Council, the IECC is on a three-year code cycle to make necessary updates reflecting technological advancements and efficiency upgrades, and covers items like HVAC, plumbing, and lighting. The most recent code adoption for commercial buildings was released in 2018 and includes updates and specifications that impact the designs of mechanical and electrical engineers.
“It wasn’t a huge change cycle, but there are quite a few items that will affect our designs,” said Mark Arnold, an Associate and Project Manager in BHB’s electrical department. “We have seen most of the items in previous codes; they are just more stringent as far as limits on lighting, efficiencies, and controls.”
While every Texas municipality must adhere to the IECC, they don’t necessarily have to adopt to the most recent version or update. Most cities will wait to adopt a code until it has been out for about a year, usually to see how the code is being interpreted by other cities or towns. Right now, IECC 2015 is widely enforced, although there is starting to be a shift towards the 2018 code adoption.
The full 2018 International Energy Conservation Code can be found here. While some of the changes are minimal, the items below are the ones that we found would affect our work the greatest and will have the biggest impact on our designs moving forward:
- Stricter mechanical and lighting controls
- Reduced minimum airflow for HVAC systems
- Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) required to cover more pumps and motors
- Increased efficiency of transformers and motors
- Reduced lighting power allowances
- Requirement of heat traps for water storage tanks
The reasoning behind the code is to save energy when possible throughout the lifespan of a building. This green movement was spurred by the large amounts of energy traditionally wasted when buildings were in use before any codes were put into place. The IECC has now placed limits on energy waste, and although the requirements seem to get more stringent each code cycle, the introduction of new technology allows these requirements to be met.
“When low wattage LED lighting was introduced, the IECC saw technology improving, and in turn, set higher wattage limits. As newer technology is developed, things become more efficient,” said Arnold.
While the 2018 IECC includes technical changes and strict updates to past versions, the code will help preserve energy and work with today’s technological advancements hand-in-hand. If you have any questions about how the newest code version may affect your projects, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help.