Builders look to meet new building efficiency standards

New building efficiency requirements call for the best construction materials and techniques.

Just as efficiency standards have increased with regard to automobiles, commercial and residential buildings are also subject to regulations from federal governing bodies that impose certain standards. Building codes are tightened frequently in an effort to lower emissions and keep architects focused on using the best building materials and techniques available. The criteria also benefit those who reside in complying buildings – an efficient, well-insulated building is an affordable, comfortable building. Recently, the Department of Energy (DOE) released a Notice of Preliminary Determination that requires states to review and revise their own regulations so they match or exceed the 2013 International Energy Conservation Code for building energy efficiency. The DOE found that buildings aligned with the 2013 standards as opposed to the 2010 regulations would yield national energy savings of roughly 8.5 percent and site energy savings of approximately 7.6 percent. "A reliable building envelope is one of the only ways to ensure year-round comfort and energy standard compliance." The why and how of building codes Generally speaking, the goal of a building code is to ensure a high level of whole building performance. By focusing on reducing drafts, using materials with low heat-conducting properties and improving air quality, architects can plan structures that make the most of the energy consumed for heating and cooling, according to the EPA. Regulations become stricter as building techniques and construction materials become more advanced. Continuous insulation, exterior coating for moisture protection and advanced air barrier materials provide quality building performance measures with fewer supplies and construction work. These measures are especially necessary for states that experience extreme climates. When the summer is exceedingly hot and the winter is bitter cold, a reliable building envelope is one of the only ways to ensure year-round comfort and energy standard compliance. Above and beyond the government mandates There are also energy efficiency standards separate from the federal regulations, like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Buildings that achieve globally-recognized LEED certification demonstrate an exemplary adherence to energy efficiency best practices, according to the U.S. Green Building Council's website. Builders must comply with the codes, but they should also consider LEED certification in order to truly provide efficient structures. Contractors try to keep up with building codes. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently recognized LEED's extensive influence on the retail industry. In the new report, LEED in Motion: Retail, the USGBC recognized Starbucks' 500th LEED-certified store, as well as Kohl's and Target, with 434 and 143 LEED-compliant locations, respectively. "All of us are consumers," Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of the USGBC, said in the report. "LEED enables retailers to make sustainable business decisions and empowers consumers to make choices they feel good about. LEED is used […]