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Energy Conservation Code

On March 7, 2017, the City of Boulder adopted the 2017 City of Boulder Energy Conservation Code (COBECC). COBECC prescribes minimum energy efficiency and conservation standards for new buildings and for additions and alterations to existing buildings. The requirements of the COBECC are intended to ensure public health, safety and welfare by certifying that the design and construction of buildings are consistent with best practices for engineering and construction technology, as well as national safety standards. The code update is also intended to improve usability and compliance, while maintaining or increasing energy efficiency. 

The effective date of the 2017 COBECC was May 8, 2017 (60 days after City Council adopted the revised code).  Projects submitting building permit applications on or after May 8, 2017, are subject to the 2017 COBECC. 

The proposed 2017 COBECC is an update to the previous energy requirements that were adopted in 2013. For commercial projects, energy requirements are 30 percent more efficient than 2012 IECC/ASHRAE 90.1-2010, which is unchanged. The update adds new energy code measures and revises both the overall residential energy performance requirements and the prescriptive energy code requirements for commercial buildings.

The City of Boulder has set a goal of reaching net zero energy (NZE) construction through building and energy codes by 2031. These updates represent a key step in reaching this goal.

Goals and Objectives of the City's Energy Code

The overall long-term goal for the city’s energy code is to build high performance, net zero energy (NZE) residential and commercial buildings. The objectives below are designed to support this overarching goal.

Supporting the City’s Climate Commitment

  • To achieve and sustain significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions (80 percent reduction by 2050)
  • To design and adopt NZE codes for all building types by 2031
  • To support technologies and practices that will move the community toward local, distributed and renewable energy systems (for both buildings and transportation) that support the goal of 100 percent renewable electricity, economic vitality and community resilience

Promoting High Performance Buildings

  • To promote sustainable building practices throughout the lifecycle of the building process (e.g., waste management, water management, transportation impacts, etc.)
  • To promote the development and ongoing maintenance of safe, comfortable and high-performing buildings
  • To support energy resilience (i.e., the ability to maintain operations during grid failure)

Creating Effective and Viable Codes

  • To adopt codes that are feasible (e.g., updated regularly, implementable, and enforceable)
  • To provide building owners and design professionals with viable and economically feasible paths to comply with energy codes that are straightforward and easy to understand

What Is Net Zero Energy?

While NZE can be defined several ways, in this context, NZE means:

The amount of renewable energy produced on site, plus the amount purchased from approved community energy systems, is equal to or greater than the annual energy consumption of the site.

This definition makes it possible for all buildings to become NZE even with poor solar access or other site constraints. Current conversations among experts and advocates at the national level have introduced alternative terminology, including terms such as “net zero carbon’ codes and ‘net zero emissions’ codes. Staff is engaged in these conversations and may propose updated terminology in future updates.

While the majority of this is addressed within the energy code itself, some key components such as waste, water, and transportation impacts are covered in applicable sections of the International Building Code (IBC) or International Residential Code (IRC).

Energy Code Changes

  • The 2017 COBECC is based off of the previously adopted 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and Green Building Green Points Program. It provides a single source for all of Boulder's energy code requirements. Previously, users would have to reference the 2012 IECC and review applicable amendments in the Boulder Revised Code. With the introduction of the 2017 COBECC, all of Boulder’s energy codes are detailed in a single source. 
  • Multifamily buildings are treated differently under the 2017 COBECC. Residential buildings only include single family homes, townhomes, duplexes and R-3 and R-4 occupancy buildings (includes boarding and care facilities). Any mixed use or multifamily apartment or condo buildings will be regulated under the commercial code. 
  • Additional sustainability measures were added to applicable sections of the International Building Code (IBC) or International Residential Code (IRC) to address Construction Waste Management, Landscaping and Shading, Solar Photovoltaic "Ready", Electric Vehicle Charging, Water Efficiency, and Radon Mitigation.  These measures are described further in the Residential and Commercial Amendment Summaries.

Residential Energy Code Changes

  • The Green Building Green Points Program is no longer required as sustainability measures such as landscaping, electrical vehicle charging and solar ready standards have been incorporated into the COBECC and the Boulder Revised Code. To learn more about additional sustainability measures not found in the COBECC, please refer to the Residential and Commercial Amendment Summaries.
  • Updated Energy Rating Index (ERI) requirements for residential new construction, alterations and additions. To determine the ERI requirements for your project visit our ERI Calculator on Residential Energy Code page.
  • Application of code requirements for alteration projects will be based on the percent of the project cost compared to the Actual Value of the building per the Boulder County Tax Assessor's database

Commercial Energy Code Changes

  • Application of code requirements for alteration projects will be based on the percent of the project cost compared to the Actual Value of the building per the Boulder County Tax Assessor's database
  • The prescriptive compliance approach has been simplified. All prescriptive compliance mandates can be found in the 2017 COBECC.
  • New energy code measures include heating and cooling system door and window interlock shutoff and for new buildings, solar ready and electric vehicle charging requirements.
  • Learn more on our Commercial Energy Code page.

Energy Code Update Process

Staff presented to city boards and City Council to receive feedback on the energy code updates. 

Energy Code Training - April 25, 2017, webinar posted

Thanks to everyone who came to the 2017 City of Boulder Energy Conservation Code training sessions in April.  Please find PDF versions of the presentations here:  Residential Presentation pdf  /  Commercial Presentation pdf .

We recorded a training webinar on April 25, 2017, that can be viewed  here.