US department of energy building

US government implements improved energy-efficiency requirements for new federal buildings

The US Department of Energy has released updated energy efficiency standards for new government-owned buildings and commercially available air conditioning units, as the cost of fuel and electricity soars around the world.

Taking effect in April 2023, the requirements will force all new federal buildings, and any renovations to existing ones, to comply with the updated codes.

They include the implementation of the International Code Council's 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which is predicted to save more than $15 billion (£11.5 billion) in net costs over the next 30 years, as well as to help reduce carbon emissions.

Proposals laid out by the Department of Energy, a branch of the US government, also cover new standards for room air conditioners and pool heaters to help consumers save on their utility bills.

This is particularly significant for air conditioners, which are being purchased in great numbers as temperatures continue to rise in parts of the country.

According to the DOE, implementation of the 2021 IECC and the 2019 ASHRAE Standard 90.1 — another benchmark for energy savings in buildings that are not low-rise residential – will save $4.2 million (£3.2 million) in operating costs within the first year.

"The adoption and implementation of up-to-date model energy codes are key toward achieving energy savings and reducing carbon emissions," said a statement from The Code Council, which has developed and updated the IECC over three decades.

The announcement comes as rising energy costs are at the forefront of public discourse globally.

The spiralling prices are attributed to a combination of rapid global economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic, record inflation, and the Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In Europe, the situation in Ukraine is forcing governments to speed up their transition to renewable energy, and become less reliant on fossil fuels from Russia.

US federal buildings include civic institutions like courthouses, city halls and military bases, as well as other government-run facilities such as offices, hospitals and warehouses.

In December 2020, former president Donald Trump passed an executive order mandating that all new federal building's must be "beautiful", meaning they should follow classical and traditional architecture styles. However, his successor Joe Biden revoked the order less than two months after his inauguration.

Cover image by Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress, via Wikipedia Commons.