A new model code from the New Buildings Institute (NBI) is designed to help cities tackle emissions, specifically from the large stock of existing buildings. The model code Existing Building Decarbonization Code was published on Sept. 19, 2022. It is considered an overlay to the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and an addition to the Building Decarbonization Code published by NBI in 2020.

NBI describes the code as “a new way for jurisdictions to reduce carbon emissions.” It will also help them “meet climate action plan goals and interconnected goals around public health and equity.”

New construction only accounts for a very small percentage of building activity in a given year, less than 2%. According to NBI, the effort to reduce building emissions must focus on existing stock to have a significant impact. NBI recognizes the enormity of the problem, noting that the United States currently has 5.9 million existing commercial buildings, which account for 97 billion square feet of space. However, it also sees the potential for significant reductions, projecting that cities could cut about 30% of all urban emissions by 2050 if they were to require existing buildings to be more energy efficient.

Some of the key technologies identified by the code to help existing buildings reduce their emissions include efficiency, on-site renewable energy generation, electric vehicle charging, and battery storage. Of course, lighting upgrades are often one of the most cost-effective energy efficiency measures available. Finally, while the code embraces an all-electric path for buildings, it is also flexible and includes options for an approach based on “mixed fuels,” including natural gas.

Read the full article in Electrical Contractor Magazine here.