Decoding the New Minnesota Energy Code: Part I
KA construction professionals and many of the architects and engineering firms they work with are learning about the new 2015 Minnesota State Building Code with the help of energy code training designed and provided by Kraus-Anderson’s MEP Systems Coordinator Matt Stringfellow. He will present the AIA-accredited class at the upcoming Duluth Building Green Conference September 14 and the Minnesota Educational Facilities Management Professionals Association (MASMS) 2016 Fall Conference in St. Cloud on September 29.
Q: How did you get involved in providing this training?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: One of my responsibilities is to teach classes related to mechanical and electrical engineering systems for buildings through KA University (KAU), our continuing education program. Our project managers have been hearing some conflicting information on their projects regarding the new 2015 Minnesota Energy Code. For that reason I took it upon myself to research the 2015 Minnesota Energy Code and to develop a high-level overview to help explain what is contained in the code and how to successfully meet the requirements for a typical construction project.
Q: What is the format of the training?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: Streamlined. It’s a one-hour class, presented in outline format of the major sections of the new code to help the participant feel more comfortable understanding and/or using the new code. We provide a side-by-side comparison of the some of the requirements for the two prescriptive path options to help determine which compliance path will be most suitable to a particular project. An important aspect of the new energy code is that the design team must choose one of several compliance paths that are available in the new code; and this has been a source of concern and confusion within the design community.
Q: Why the change in code?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: Periodically the Minnesota State Legislature will update the building code requirements (which include the energy code requirements) by adopting an updated code version through legislative action. The published building codes are updated on a regular basis to account for changes in laws, technology, and design/building practices affecting the construction industry.
Q: Does the new code represent a big change from the previous code?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: The United States Department of Energy (DOE) signed a memorandum of understanding with ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ashrae.org/)to develop advanced commercial standards and included an agreement that the 90.1-2010 version of the ASHRAE Standard would result in 30% energy savings relative to the 2004 version. The DOE conducted analyses using state-of-the-art energy simulation software called “Energy Plus” that evaluated 16 prototype building models. The results essentially verified that the 90.1-2010 Standard would result on-average with a 30% increase in energy savings as compared with the 90.1-2004 Standard. Based on my reading of the summary of the DOE study process and its “ideal “ conditions, I believe that it would be more reasonable for a typical building project meeting the new energy code to expect on average a 20% increase in energy savings as compared with the previous code.
Q: What are the real or perceived concerns about understanding the new code?
MATT STRINGFELLOW: I think the single biggest concern with the new 2015 Minnesota Energy Code is the fact that the code outlines four (4) major compliance paths (with several additional sub-paths under certain portions of the code) and the design team must choose which path to follow to design their particular building project. The code does not offer any guidance on which path might be more appropriate for a particular building type. Once a path is chosen, all requirements in that particular path must be met without compromise. The new energy code also requires verification/approval/submittal of certain items used for compliance to be confirmed with the local code authority. I think it will be interesting to see how local municipalities will enforce/verify compliance with the new energy code as the letter of the code places a much greater onus on the local code authority’s participation. My recommendation would be that each project design team should meet with the local code authority at the very beginning of a project to discuss their choice of which path to use to comply with the new energy code and confirm what the code authority will require in that regard to avoid any surprises when it comes time to obtain the certificate of occupancy.View Comments