2024 IECC – What Happened?

The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) or “model code” establishes the minimum requirements for building energy efficiency. The code is updated every three years, and for 2024, a new consensus-driven development process brought together diverse stakeholders to determine those requirements.

However, the International Code Council’s Board of Directors recently voted to go against consensus and remove mandatory provisions relating to building decarbonization from the 2024 draft.

In this episode, host Robb Aldrich interviews Gayathri Vijayakumar, Principal Mechanical Engineer at Steven Winter Associates and a voting member of the 2024 IECC Residential Consensus Committee, to find out… what happened?


Choosing Electrification or Efficiency (When Both Aren’t Possible)

When is it the right call to improve the energy efficiency of existing building systems, or upgrade and electrify them?

Though electrification is important to reduce carbon emissions, electrifying buildings is not straightforward. Factors like cost, existing infrastructure, compliance needs (and we’ll say it again: cost!) can keep building owners from going all-electric.

In this episode, Buildings + Beyond co-host Robb Aldrich catches up with Ryan Merkin, Vice President of Business Development at BlocPower (and a SWA alum). They discuss the eight areas Ryan considers when deciding to focus on efficiency vs. electrification:

  • Building height
  • Planned capital expenditures (CapEx)
  • Current system condition and remaining useful life
  • Heating energy source: oil and electrical resistance
  • Existing systems: Individual/unitized vs. central
  • Packaged terminal ACs (PTACs) and through-wall sleeve ACs
  • Regulatory drivers (LL97, ESG, etc.) and incentives
  • Metering: who pays what now; who would pay in the future


Mind the Gap – Addressing the Skills Gap in the Sustainable Building Industry

Buildings are complicated. There’s a bigger learning curve than ever for the people who construct, operate, and manage high-performance buildings—and there’s more demand than ever for skilled workers across the sustainable building industry.

In this episode, Ellen Honigstock, Senior Director of Education at Urban Green Council, sits down with Kelly Westby, Managing Director of the Building Operations, Decarbonization, and Efficiency (BODE) team at Steven Winter Associates. They chat about what it takes to effectively educate the workforce to ensure occupant comfort, energy and carbon reductions, sustainability, and the overall performance of a building.

This is a crossover episode! Go to the Building Tomorrow: Conversations with Climate Solvers podcast feed to hear Ellen interview Kelly about all-things building commissioning.


Healthy Materials 101 – A Realistic Approach to Creating Healthier Buildings with Jonsara Ruth

At the baseline, “healthy” materials should not have a negative impact on people living or working inside of a building. Beyond that, there are materials that have a low impact on people and the planet throughout their entire lifespan—and then there are materials that can have a net-positive impact, such as those that absorb carbon from our atmosphere.

Jonsara Ruth, Co-founder and Design Director of the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design, joins this episode of the Buildings + Beyond podcast to discuss the spectrum of materials and resources available. Jonsara chats with guest host Sarah Nugent about how to phase out toxic ingredients and select materials that are healthy and affordable.


The Real Secret to Energy-Efficient Buildings? Operations & Maintenance Training

Over the lifespan of a building, operations and maintenance staff arguably have the biggest impact on system performance and energy efficiency. With the right training, staff can keep a building running as it was designed to run and “create the change” to reduce energy usage, reduce repairs, and upgrade vs. replace equipment.

So how do project teams create O&M training programs that achieve all this?

In this episode, producer and guest host Dylan Martello chats with Luis Aragon and Heather Nolen—two O&M training experts at SWA—about balancing in-person and digital education, accounting for every learning style, breaking down language barriers, sustaining the training for the long term, and much more.


Answering the Tough Questions About Energy Codes

What happens when you put four sustainable building experts involved in energy code development in a room and ask them to bring their favorite—and sometimes, most controversial—topics for discussion? You end up with more questions than answers!

In this roundtable episode hosted by Robb Aldrich, our guests ask each other these tough questions related to our nation’s energy codes:

  • Performance Metrics: How can energy codes be simplified? Is energy use intensity (EUI) a viable alternate metric?
  • Gas Bans: If jurisdictions cannot ban gas, how can we put electrification in the energy code?
  • Embodied Carbon: How should embodied carbon accounting be incorporated into energy codes?
  • Robb’s Bonus Question #1: How are building inspectors dealing with complicated energy codes?
  • Robb’s Bonus Question #2: Should there be electric vehicle (EV) charging requirements in energy codes?


Cost vs. Conservation vs. Comfort – Roundtable, Part 2

The ideal building is cost-efficient, energy-efficient, and comfortable for its occupants. But executing all three of these elements to perfection can be complex and costly. Can there ever be a win-win-win across all three?

In part two of our roundtable episode with Michelle DeCarlo, Saeideh Kirby, Erin McElwee, and Buildings + Beyond host Kelly Westby, our guests discuss how to find a balance between meeting project objectives and creating sustainable and healthy buildings. They also share how they’ve seen the COVID-19 pandemic change project priorities and building operations.

Did you miss part one of this roundtable? Go to the previous episode to hear our guests’ moving discussion on gender equity in the building industry.


Take Action: How Everyone Can Help Advance Gender Equity in the Building Industry – Roundtable, Part 1

To mark Women’s History Month, we wanted to get firsthand perspectives from women in the building industry. We invited Michelle DeCarlo of JB&B and Saeideh Kirby of JLL to join SWA’s Erin McElwee and Kelly Westby for a two-part episode tackling different topics—starting with gender equity.

In part one of their discussion, the group explores gender equity in male-dominated fields such as construction, HVAC, and engineering. They cover a range of topics, including microaggressions, implicit bias, authenticity in the workplace, and mentorship and sponsorship, and offer actionable takeaways for people of all gender identities to help advance gender equity across our industry.

We thank our guests for sharing their personal experiences!

Look out for part two of their discussion on balancing cost, conservation, and comfort in sustainable buildings.


ENERGY STAR NextGen: 5 Requirements for Climate-Friendly Homes

Building on the 25-year foundation of the ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction program, the EPA is gearing up to launch a new certification program for efficient single-family and multifamily homes: ENERGY STAR NextGen™ Certified Homes and Apartments. Based on initial energy and emissions modeling, ENERGY STAR NextGen certified homes will achieve an average of 47% greater carbon savings than homes built according to 2021 residential energy code.

In this episode, Robb chats with two members of EPA’s ENERGY STAR Residential Branch, Asa Foss and Elliot Seibert, about what home builders, raters, and buyers can expect from ENERGY STAR NextGen and its electric-forward—not all-electric—focus. They discuss each of the program’s requirements and the rationale and goals behind them.


How Can We Convince More Homeowners to Make Energy-Efficiency Upgrades?

The average homeowner is aware that energy efficiency is important in the fight against climate change. The people who are most passionate about energy conservation are making upgrades to their homes and setting a good example for their neighbors. But how can we get more homeowners excited about doing the work (and navigating the cost) to improve their home’s performance?

On this episode, Robb chats with Adam Stenftenagel and Christine Liaukus (a SWA alum!), two experts on improving existing buildings, about what it’ll take to reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of single-family homes on a much larger scale than we are today. They discuss data, strategies, technologies, and of course, financing that can help get millions of homeowners on the path to net zero energy.


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