November 6, 2013 | Ryan Meres

Shortly after I started working at IMT, I began researching best practices that were being employed by local jurisdictions to enforce the energy code. Since efforts to ensure compliance with energy codes remain considerably low in several states and jurisdictions, I came up with the idea to recognize jurisdictions that are finding ways to raise compliance rates despite constraints on their budgets and time.

In late 2011 the full concept for the Excellence in Energy Code Compliance Awards was born. A year later the 2012 Award winners were announced at the International Code Council’s (ICC) Annual Conference in Portland, Ore.

I’m proud to announce that earlier this month, at the ICC Annual Conference in Atlantic City, N.J., IMT and the Global Buildings Performance Network (GBPN) announced the 2013 winners for the newly re-branded Standard Bearers Award. This year’s winners are:

  •  Brent Ursenbach, Salt Lake County, Utah, Energy Code Champion
  • City of Austin, Texas, Local Jurisdiction Winner
  • Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), State Level Winner

Brent Ursenbach, Salt Lake County, Utah

Brent Ursenbach, this year’s Energy Code Champion from Salt Lake County, Utah, exemplifies the kind of leadership needed to take energy code compliance to the next level. He not only serves as the go-to energy code resource for Salt Lake County, but with the support of the county’s leadership, advises code officials across the whole state of Utah.

Brent has taught more than 56,000 hours of continuing education units (CEUs), including the recruiting, mentoring, and training of 11 Energy Code Ambassadors in their respective regions of the state. He has served on state-level committees responsible for making recommendations for code adoption and is also active in national-level code development through the ICC.

Austin, Texas

As I mentioned above, supportive leadership in Salt Lake County enabled Brent to promote energy code compliance both within the county and across the state of Utah. The City of Austin, Texas, this year’s local jurisdiction winner, also backed a strong energy code and the infrastructure to ensure  its enforcement. In 2006, under the leadership of then-Mayor Will Wynn, a Zero Energy Capable Homes Task Force (ZECHT) was convened.

Consisting of a wide range of industry stakeholders, the ZECHT developed a package of amendments to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) that would result in homes capable of achieving net zero energy with a modest amount of on-site renewable energy. The ZECHT set energy use targets for each code adoption cycle from 2006 through 2015.

One central element of the ZECHT’s recommendations was a series of performance tests for the building envelope and mechanical systems. To ensure compliance with the testing requirements, Austin Energy developed a third-party program of certified testing contractors.

The use of third-party testing contractors removes the cost of the city performing the tests and creates a program that is flexible with respect to changes in construction volume.

Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA)

This year’s state-level winner, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA), is an example of how the combination of leadership and collaborative work helps shape an innovative program to improve compliance. Although the GDCA doesn’t have any authority to enforce the energy code (which is the sole responsibility of local governments), its innovative Duct and Envelope Tightness Equipment Loan Program shows how the state can support local jurisdictions and home builders in compliance with the Georgia State Energy Code.

Working in collaboration with the Homebuilders Association of Georgia (HBAG) and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, GDCA used American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Community Development Block Grant funding to purchase and distribute 30 new envelope and duct leakage testing kits. The kits were distributed by HBAG to its local chapters across the state where they would be rented for a nominal fee of $100/day or $150/weekend.

The program allows local code officials or Certified Duct and Envelope Tightness Verifiers to rent equipment for a small fee and verify whether or not a home meets Georgia’s envelope and duct tightness requirements.

What is the significance of this year’s winners?

As with last year’s winners, this year’s group demonstrates that leadership at all levels is crucial to achieving energy code compliance. Brent Ursenbach is proof that an individual champion, with the support of leadership, can have a state-wide impact on energy code compliance. Austin, Texas, demonstrates that local government leadership is crucial to developing a strong energy code, and a solid, cost-effective enforcement infrastructure is a key to ensuring compliance. And last but not least, Georgia proves that home builders and state agencies can work together to improve compliance with the state energy code.


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Ryan Meres

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