The State of Energy Efficiency Covered in Latest Ebook


The magazine’s sponsored ebook series continues with a focus on modern exterior design practices. Photo courtesy of Hoffmann Architects

On February 24, 2017, The New York Times ran an article regarding the possible dismantling of the Indian Point nuclear power plant just north of New York City.

According to the article, the governor intends to shut down the plant by 2021. This raises the question: how New York State intends to replace the energy created by the plant. so that they can always meet electricity demands?

It turns out that is not the case; not entirely. The article goes on to quote a report which determined that New York’s best option is not to find alternative energy sources, but to follow states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island in implementing programs. to reduce energy consumption.

New York is not alone in applying this calculation to energy policy, and the cumulative effect of such decisions on the built environment is significant. In 2010, the required insulation value for a new low slope roof on a commercial building in Climate Zone 4 (the region that includes New York City) was R-20. Today, the 2018 International Code of Energy Conservation (IECC) requires that same roof to be R-30, a 50 percent increase. For windows, the change was even more dramatic. In 2010, the new fixed windows required an R-1.82; today it is R-2.63, an increase of 45%. Additionally, while similar values ​​for exterior walls have largely remained the same, the method of performance assessment has changed significantly.

2018 IECC is the latest in a series of increasingly stringent regulatory requirements. While not necessarily an answer, these regulations certainly support a policy shift adopted by states like New York looking to meet energy needs in part by reducing use.

Today, the path to energy code compliance can be nuanced and complicated, requiring not only knowledge of standards and materials, but a basic understanding of scientific concepts such as the laws of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics. Stricter requirements now put designers in potential conflict with competing codes on issues such as combustibility and structural stability. This trend is of course unlikely to ever reverse. Instead, energy performance requirements will simply continue to become more stringent and the pathways to compliance will be more complicated. With that in mind, a look at the year 2018 IECC and the science behind it could be helpful. To keep things simple, the discussion in this article will be limited to commercial buildings.

This article appears in a collection in Modern exterior design practices, a free downloadable resource. To get your pdf or digital copy, visit


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