Lessons from Washington’s Energy Code Residential Option Table

At the ACEEE Conference, David Baylon – Ecotope, shared how creating a residential option table with the WA energy code gave builders more flexibility.

Gaining Code Consensus through Broad Compliance Paths

Local Government Commission


The California energy code is one of the most powerful tools we have to commit to energy efficient buildings in our communities. However, we’ve also seen how successful implementation of an energy code is critically tied to making sure a code provides clarity, assistance, and options for those responsible for complying with it. At this August’s ACEEE Conference in Pacific Grove, David Baylon from Ecotope shared how creation of a “residential option table” for compliance with the State of Washington’s energy code gave builders more flexibility – and also grants builders the ability to pursue more energy efficiency more efficiently.

The development of Washington’s of the Residential Option Table

Toward the end of 2008, the state of Washington turned its eye to energy and climate action through energy codes, and started a process that led to a goal of 70% energy use reduction in new buildings by 2031, via ramp up of an energy code, produced by the Department of Commerce and the State Building Code, across eight code cycles. To develop this code, a simulation package of approximately 30 measures was developed that leveraged savings opportunities from enhanced envelope (looking toward passive house), HVAC and ducts, domestic hot water, lighting, and even photovoltaics. This simulation package helped the state understand where the greatest savings opportunities existed. However, questions were raised as to how to include energy savings from efficient HVAC equipment, due to the need to not conflict with federal energy efficiency standards for HVAC equipment (which were set less stringently under the Federal Energy Policy Act, or “EPAC”). How could a prescriptive energy code offer high-efficiency HVAC compliance opportunities while without violating EPAC?

The creation of an option table, through which new buildings can earn points by complying with different optional efficient installs, resolved this issue. The state’s 2009 Residential Option Table allows for builders to select whatever solution is most appropriate to their building according to a credit-based points scale that reflects the savings being achieved. For example, 1 credit could be earned by complying with “Gas, propane or oil-fired furnace or boiler with minimum AFUE of 92%, or Air-source heat pump with minimum HSPF of 8.5.” – alternately, 1 credit could also be earned by combining efficient envelope (“Component performance compliance: Reduce the Target UA from Table 5-1 by 5%, as determined using EQUATION 1.1” – 0.5 credits) with efficient water heating (“Gas, propane or oil water heater with a minimum EF of 0.62. or Electric Water Heater with a minimum EF of 0.93. All showerhead shall be rated at 1.75 GPM or less. All other lavatory faucets shall be rated at 1.0 GPM or less” – 0.5 credits).

The option table has become central to code improvements, with new options, details and points (envelope, HVAC/DHP mini-splits and ventilation) released this summer. For more information, see The Development and Savings from the Residential Option Table in the Washington State Energy Code.

California’s New Compliance Options

In case you missed it: California’s 2016 energy code (the 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards) include numerous new compliance pathway options – including some game-changing options for lighting compliance, which are applicable ear.ly (now!) Energy Code Ace and the California Energy Commission (CEC) have more on this, here.

Learn about compliance resources and more through Energy Code Ace and other code compliance resources on EECoordinator.info – or check out our favorite energy code reference resources covered in the Summer edition of CURRENTS.

Local governments engaging their building communities

Interested in more examples of how local governments are engaging their building stakeholders for energy code compliance? Check out Palo Alto’s on-demand green building compliance trainings launched last year, or Santa Barbara County’s Smart Build Santa Barbara (“SB2”) program. (Have more great examples? Let us know what your jurisdiction is doing!)