With the changing of the new year Georgia’s adopted energy code was updated from the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) 2009 to the 2015 version. The adopted version of ASHRAE 90.1 (still an allowable alternate compliance path) was also updated, from the 2007 version to the 2013 version. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that sustainability in the United States took a pretty big leap forward over those years, which leaves those of us performing AEC work in Georgia a number of new energy code requirements to be aware of. This article will provide a concise break down of the new energy code requirements that apply to electrical systems.

After delving into the requirements in the newly adopted versions of the IECC and ASHRAE 90.1, it becomes clear that the IECC will be the default preferred compliance path by building owners. This is due to cost. ASHRAE 90.1 has a couple of cost-intensive requirements that IECC does not, specifically plug-load control requirements and metering requirements based on load type.  The additional controls required for receptacles and the additional gear needed separate load types for metering will add cost to projects that will typically overshadow the cost differences to other trades, making the electrical system the typical driver for selection of energy code compliance path. For that reason, we will focus on the IECC.

Below is a condensed list of the requirements that have changed from the 2009 version of the IECC to the 2015 version.

  • Occupancy sensors were one of the compliance paths in 2009; now they are required in specific spaces.
    1. Classrooms, training rooms, conference rooms, copy rooms, lounges, break rooms, private offices, restrooms, storage rooms, janitor’s closets, locker rooms, and any other enclosed rooms under 300-square feet are now required to have occupancy sensors.
    2. Warehouses must now have occupancy sensors to reduce the lighting power by 50 percent in aisleways.
    3. Spaces that do not specifically require occupancy sensors must still utilize time-switch control.
  • Light reduction controls are still in effect, however, the exemptions have been removed for areas with one (1) luminaire, areas that are controlled by an occupancy sensor, sleeping units, corridors, storerooms, restrooms, lobbies, and low wattage spaces.
  • Separate controls for daylight zones are still in effect but the rules have changed. The definitions and sizes of daylight zones have gotten more specific and tighter, which reduces the sizes of the zones. This is a help and makes more sense than the old definitions.
    1. The depth of daylight zones adjacent to vertical fenestration is now defined by the ceiling height within the space as opposed to a 15-feet standard.
    2. Daylight zones under both skylights and rooftop monitors now extend along the floor 0.7 times the ceiling height rather than the full ceiling height.
    3. A number of exemptions have been added to the separate control requirements for daylight zones as well: zones with less than 150 Watts of lighting, patient care areas, dwelling and sleeping units, and assembly and mercantile occupancies on grade.
  • While the number and size of daylight zones have been reduced, the control requirements in daylight zones have gotten more stringent:
    1. Calibration mechanisms for daylight zone controls must now be provided and be readily accessible to authorized personnel.
    2. Classrooms, laboratories, and library reading rooms are required to have controls that continuously dim the lighting rather than simply on/off.
    3. Daylight zones in different cardinal directions are now required to have separate controls.
  • Separate controls are now required for display and accent lighting, display case lighting, under-cabinet lighting, task lighting, demonstration lighting, and lighting for non-visual applications.
  • Hotel and motel guest suites are required to either have a master control that shuts off all lighting and switched receptacles 20 minutes after all occupants leave the room or a captive key system.
  • Allowable wattage for interior lighting power has been reduced. Most building area types have been reduced by 10-20%. Some notable exceptions are that schools/universities have been reduced by 27.5 percent, parking garages have been reduced by 30 percent, and dormitories have been reduced by 43 percent. This may sound alarming but LED technology has greatly reduced the wattage of lighting fixtures over the years. On office projects, we have typically been 40 percent below the allowable interior lighting wattage under IECC 2009 so we except the new limits to be easily achievable as well.
  • Allowable wattage for exterior lighting has not changed with the exception of building façades being reduced by 25 percent. This again should be easily achievable.
  • Control requirements for non-emergency exterior lighting have been added.
    1. Exterior lighting must automatically shut off as a function of daylight.
    2. Façade and landscape lighting must shut off the lighting as a function of dawn/dusk and opening/closing time.
    3. Façade and landscape lighting must also have controls to reduce the lighting power by 30 percent between midnight and 6 A.M., for one hour before opening time and one hour after closing time, and after 15 minutes of inactivity.
  • Each dwelling unit is now required to have a separate meter.
  • There are now mandated efficiencies for transformers and motors. These should not cause any issues so long as new products are being purchased.
  • Elevator cab lighting must have a minimum efficiency of 35 lumens/watt and elevator cab fans must have a maximum of 0.33 watts/cfm. These systems must have controls to de-energize them after 15 minutes of being stopped and unoccupied.
  • Escalators must have controls to reduce the speed to the minimum allowed when not conveying passengers and regenerative drives are required when conveying passengers whose combined weight exceeds 750 lbs.

Dan Boland - Stevens & Wilkinson - Atlanta, GADaniel A. Boland, PE, LEED AP, Senior Associate – Senior Electrical Engineer |  dboland@stevens-wilkinson.com

Dan is a Senior Associate and Senior Electrical Engineer with a diverse project experience specializing in the design of K-12hospitality, restaurants, retail, and LEED-certified projects. He is also proficient in Revit MEP, AutoCAD, SKM Powertools, and LEED project planning and execution.