Energy Codes: The Great Atlantic Divide

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Friday, October 25th, 2013
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Both the US and Europe serve as primary models and set strong benchmarks in terms of energy and building efficiency codes and regulations.

The regions adopt significantly disparate approaches, however, with the general nature of their respective energy codes serving to broadly exemplify two main approaches to the issue of legislating building efficiency.

In the US, regulations are generally devised and enforced by building code officials themselves, who focus largely on the design and construction phase of structures. Once a certificate of occupancy is issued, officials will typically refrain from further supervision or involvement in the building’s operation.

Europeans, by contrast, tend to focus more on performance of a building following its completion, with the issuance of annual quotas for energy consumption as well enforcement measures to hold building managers to account during the occupancy phase.

Energy codes in Europe also tend to possess a far broader ambit than those across the Atlantic, encompassing energy rating and disclosure as well as concrete building regulations.

Deeply marked by experiences of war-time scarcity during the Second World War, many European nations have long implemented energy codes even prior to the OPEC oil crisis of the 1970s, which shook industrialised economies to the core and heightened awareness of the need to raise efficiency.

One example is Denmark, which made energy consumption restrictions a part of building codes as early as 1961.

While a large number of industry experts consider the European approach more effective from the viewpoint of monitoring performance and raising levels of building efficiency, this approach is more onerous compared with the alternative in terms of compliance and regulatory effort.

For this reason, approaches along the lines of the American model are more widely used – particularly in developing nations where legislative systems and enforcement bodies are not always as strong relative to their developed world counterparts.

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