Delay on New State Energy Code

It may be news to you that we’ll be getting a new state energy code, predicted to improve new building energy efficiency by 10-20%. If so, here’s double news: it will be delayed beyond October 18, 2013, the date by which federal law says New York State must update its commercial energy code*. However, the state can’t move forward until it gets back the results of a study by the US Department of Energy (DOE) – so the state is requesting an extension of the deadline.

New York State has been working on this energy code update since at least May 2012. It’s a time-consuming, detail-oriented process, ably managed by the NYS Department of State. In addition to various legal requirements**, a technical subcommittee supplies recommendations for state modifications to national model codes, passing these on to the state Code Council. After the state issues draft code, there will be a public comment period before adoption of the new code. But the Department of State is being held up right now by a missing federal report that it must have for review before publicly releasing the draft rule on the new code.

Ironically, the state is applying for an extension from the DOE, the same folks that have not yet released the study New York is waiting on to move forward. It’s sort of like those traffic cops during rush hour who stop your car, even though you’ve got a green light.

The state hopes to get its extension approved soon, which will probably last six or nine months. No one knows for sure what would happen if the needed report still isn’t available in time, but state officials are in direct communication with DOE about it.

Once the state process is complete, New York City will also update its commercial energy code, since city code in turn must be at least as stringent as the state version. New York State is endeavoring to move things forward as quickly as possible, and hopefully the new code will come sooner than later so it can do the most good.

And what about the residential portions of the energy code? The Department of State is currently working on the proposed text along with the required impact statements. We’ll keep you posted, so stay tuned.


*Some background for code heads: Current state commercial energy code is based on ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2007 and the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code. But under the Energy Conservation and Production Act (42 U.S.C. 6833), within 12 months of the publication of a revised version of ASHRAE 90.1, the Secretary of Energy must issue a determination whether it will improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings (this includes all buildings over three stories, even if they are residential). Upon publication of an affirmative finding by the Secretary, which occurred on October 19, 2011 for ASHRAE 90.1-2010, states then have two years to update their commercial building code to “meet or exceed” the new ASHRAE 90.1. That explains next week’s deadline and why the new code’s commercial provisions will need to be at least as stringent as ASHRAE 90.1-2010.

**NY State law only allows energy code modifications only “provided that the code remains cost effective with respect to building construction”, among other statutory requirements.