Codes are becoming increasingly stringent, but they’re only on paper and don’t do anything until used. That could soon change, thanks to the help of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Industry codes consultant Tom Culp discussed those developments during the Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference this week in Las Vegas. The event, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, is organized by the National Glass Association.
Culp explained that the IRA has $1 billion appropriated to the Department of Energy for state and local government grants to accelerate energy-code adoption. That includes $330 million to adopt the latest energy codes and $670 million to adopt a zero-energy code. Money is available until 2029.
The IRA, Culp said, includes tax incentives for several glazing products. He said these include electrochromic glass, though that has a very short timeline, with construction needing to begin before January 1, 2025. Solar and BIPV are covered beyond 2032.
Culp also believes the IRS will interpret the credit as applicable for entire assemblies, including installation and labor, not just glass.
Another incentive is the 179D Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction for going 25-50% beyond ASHRAE 90.1-2019. The baseline is $0.50 to $1 per square foot. That increases five times to $2.50 to $5 per square foot if requirements for prevailing wages and registered apprenticeships are met. Culp said this could be difficult to earn with HVAC or lighting and requires an efficient envelope.
Also part of the IRA is $2.15 billion for the General Services Administration (GSA), which must be obligated by Sept. 30, 2026, specifically for installing low embodied carbon materials in the construction and alteration of GSA buildings. Initial targets include concrete, steel, glass and asphalt. Originally, the GSA targeted both flat and processed glass, but it just announced it will target flat glass only.
According to draft rules, as of Jan. 25, 2023, companies must have product-specific and facility-specific Environmental Product Declarations (EPD). Flat glass plants must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Plants program. According to the draft, assemblies can qualify if 80% of component materials qualify by weight or cost.
Culp also discussed embodied carbon and EPDs in the green codes. ASHRAE 189.1-2023 will become the 2024 International Green Code when published. Two proposals will greatly increase the use of EPDs. One of the proposals addresses EPD submissions and increases the number of EPDs required on a project to at least 20 products and 25% of total building product cost. It still allows industry-wide EPDs in addition to company-specific EPDs and doesn’t require facility-specific EPDs.
The second proposal is more controversial, Culp said, as it deals with getting into actual global warming potential (GWP) limits. It calls for at least 10 product-specific EPDs representing more than 10-15% of the total building product cost, with GWP within 125% of the industrywide average. One issue is that it requires a product-specific EPD, not just an industrywide EPD; some companies have a product-specific EPD, while others don’t, he said.
Speaking of EPDs, NGA vice president of technical services and advocacy Urmilla Sowell discussed the Building Transparency group’s efforts to develop an embodied carbon in construction calculator (EC3). The tool allows users to find and compare different materials and to plan and compare buildings. The hope, she said, is that as Building Transparency can gather more data, it will help bring down the cost of EPDs.
The BEC Conference concludes on March 7. The 2024 event is scheduled for March 3-5, 2024, in Nashville.