Chapter Corner

Code Compliance Made Easy

Posted in: Features, August 2017

For decades, a strained energy grid and renewed attention on energy efficiency has been a major focus of the federal government, green building advocates, and building advocates, and building owners who are looking to reduce their energy costs while increasing property value. Driven by Department of Energy mandates, energy codes have evolved to make buildings more efficient and support a more sustainable future, but keeping up with changing building requirements can be daunting for electrical engineers and contractors who have to meet code and their customer's design and performance requirements.

Energy codes are complex. Various standard-writing organizations publish energy standards on a multi-year cycle; states and municipalities subsequently adopt these standards into law at different times, and with irregular frequency. Beyond that, requirements are typically different for renovations versus new construction, and they change by building and space type. This calls for a variety of strategies to be used within each project. We are all better served by buildings designed for energy efficiency, but when it comes to code-compliant lighting control solutions, specifiers and contractors can find themselves scratching their heads:

  • Which code do I need to follow?
  • What strategies do I need to use in each type of space?
  • What are my lighting control options and which is best for this customer?
  • How do I know the system, as commissioned, complies with code and still meets the owner's needs?

This is where your lighting control manufacturer can be a true project partner. Especially when it comes to retrofits, the best solution is one that meets these three criteria - it's simple, cost-effective, and easy to install. Manufacturers can help simplify planning and execution of energy-saving controls by providing resources that take the guess work out of design and selection, as well as product solutions that meet a wide variety of energy codes and performance demands.

Design resources simplify projects from the start

To minimize job frustration, fast-track project timelines, and eliminate callbacks, you first need to understand lighting control requirements for your state and region. Most state codes are based on the IECC or ASHRAE standards. California is the exception to this rule; it uses the California Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards in a concerted effort to ensure buildings achieve energy efficiency and preserve outdoor and indoor environmental quality. California is pushing toward zero net energy by 2020.

It is also essential to understand code as defined by project scope. New construction will always have the most stringent energy compliance requirements. Retrofits often have fewer restrictions, but the threshold for including energy-savings strategies is different within each code. In an effort to help contractors address all these variables, manufacturers like Lutron Electronics have created online energy code look-up resources that lead contractors through the process.

Quick reference guides can be most helpful when contractors are familiar with the code and are looking for suggested product solutions based on total installed cost, simplicity of system design, and basic functional needs of the space.

Product solutions enable simple code compliance and support best practices

Designing a building or space that meets code is a basic requirement. Turn to more comprehensive application guides for lighting control options that not only meet code but include alternate solutions that go beyond minimum compliance to identify best practices and detail solutions.

Using these kinds of resources, contractors can be prepared with up-to-date information on recent codes in each state and arm themselves with guides that clearly define which strategies are most appropriate in each type of space. In some states, there are additional or alternate compliance codes - these requirements can further narrow the appropriate control strategies and minimize compliance questions.

No online resource can guarantee a code-compliant solution - it's essential to verify your selected control strategies with your local authority that has jurisdiction for energy code amendments - but these resources give you a strong basis for lighting control solutions that are designed to meet code and provide the best functionality for your customers.

Flexible product solutions simplify code compliance

Design resources are a great first step, but product solutions that meet code and performance requirements and are easy to install and program are the key to your project's success. As energy codes become more complex and green building certifications enhance employee well-being and increase building value, manufacturers are working to provide new product solutions that deliver superb performance without breaking your budget.

Code compliance is most restrictive in new construction, but it is increasingly complex even in retrofits. Wireless smart building solutions can be the most flexible option for meeting code, reducing installation costs, and ensuring building owners have a solution that easily adapt to changes in property use over the years.

Wireless solutions provide cost-effective installation and scalable control. They also reduce risk by simplifying changes and additions to any project. Select a robust product solution designed to deliver the right control for the right space, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Install simple occupancy sensors or fully integrated, automated lighting and daylight control; deliver digital addressability for simple rezoning; and provide greater opportunity for personal control throughout any space. And, most importantly, with the right wireless solution, you can start small and expand over time based on the customer's budget, long-term business plan, or other unanticipated circumstances.

Wireless controls also reduce labor and maintenance costs

Especially in retrofits, the benefits of wireless control systems include cost-effective installation, faster set-up, and the opportunity to access system data from any smart device, at any time. 

Almost any new lighting control system includes occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting technologies. Wireless protocols make it easier to install these sensors, but they also make it easier to fine tune control locations and set up without disrupting work schedules or opening up walls. In a typical open-office space, properly installed sensors can provide additional lighting energy savings of up to 44% during the workday.

Wireless controls can also be effectively utilized prior to system installation to log data that will accurately predict the lighting control system's energy performance. All these features are critical for ensuring code compliance and meeting the specific demands of each space without adding unnecesssary cost and complexity.

Lighting control manufacturers, like other building system manufacturers, remain committed to helping specifiers and contractors deliver the best user experience to their customers. Successful installations start with resources and products that make it easier to provide code-compliant solutions, then expand your opportunity to offer value-added solutions that improve the overall customer experience.

Craig Casey is a Senior Building Science Engineer at Lutron Electronics Co., Inc. He works in the Energy Information and Analytics group conducting applied research on energy and human benefits of lighting and daylighting controls.

Craig is finishing his dissertation at Penn State University to receive his Ph.D. in Architectural Engineering. His doctoral work involves the development of a simulation tool built on the Radiance calculation engine for the purposes of whole-building  daylight simulation with integrated lighting and shade controls. He has presented multiple times at the Illuminating Engineering Society's Annual Conference as well as the International Radiance Workshop, and LightFair International. 

Currently, Craig sits on three committees within the Illuminating Engineering Society, as well as the Architectural Simulations Subcommittee of the International Building Performance Simulation Association (IBPSA). He also chairs the AERC committee on Attachment Operation Schedules, Craig was the Conference Steering Committee Chair for the 2015 IES Annual Conference.