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Energy Conservation Code

In 2020 the City of Boulder will update the energy code to the 2020 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. Code language development is currently underway.  For more information on the process scroll down to Energy Code Changes below.

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, outcome verified 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 2020 COBECC is based off of the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). It will provide a single source for all of Boulder's energy code requirements.
  • 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 are included to address Construction Waste Management, Solar Photovoltaic "Ready", and Electric Vehicle Charging.  

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.