Recently SEDAC Engineers Shawn Maurer and Ryan Siegel attended the 2024 National Energy Codes Conference hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy in Sacramento, California. The annual conference provides an opportunity for attendees to learn about energy code implementation, energy efficiency, decarbonizing the building sector, and the availability of federal funding and assistance. Newcomers could attend an Energy Codes Bootcamp for those who are new to the world of energy codes. SEDAC caught up with Shawn and Ryan after the conference to ask them about their experience.

What are the major trends related to Building Energy Codes in the United States right now?

Can you share a little more about the outlook for Building Energy Codes in the United States?

Shawn: The advancement to net-zero codes is inevitable. Recent setbacks, such as the 9th Circuit ruling on federal pre-emption of electrification, may have slowed the pace of net-zero advances in the code, but conservationists, energy code developers, and municipalities focused on better environmental stewardship haven’t given up. Those who are developing codes in this industry are just finding new ways to advance net-zero options in the codes that don’t violate the recent ruling..

Ryan: Two areas: First, energy codes are driving in the direction of carbon neutrality. This includes accounting for greenhouse gas emissions and American society working to move away from carbon-based energy sources toward renewables and electrification. We also talked about how time of use energy rates can encourage building designs that can shift their energy consumption. A building that can adjust energy consumption based on availability or scarcity of energy will become valuable for society because we will transition from relatively fixed sources of electricity such as coal, gas, and nuclear to variable, but predictable sources such as wind and solar.

Now, what was your favorite part of the conference?

Shawn: My favorite part was a tour of a high-performance building for the local electric utility company (SMUD). We saw a lot of innovative HVAC system designs and on-going system commissioning that I think the energy codes will start pushing more and more building owners to implement over time. Systems included a geothermal battery paired with thermal energy storage tanks to allow for peak demand shaving, fully electrified operation with heat pumps, heat recovery chillers, heated and cooled slabs for sensible heat control, and chilled beams and a heat-recovery dedicated outdoor air system for latent heat control and sensible heat tuning for comfort

Ryan: I really enjoyed meeting diverse groups of people from across the country and being able to share ideas. It is interesting to hear people’s stories about how they ended up working with the energy code. There’s a common theme that people did not go to school for a career in energy codes, or even know it was a possible career.

Did you learn anything at the energy codes conference that you would be interested to apply to the SEDAC Energy Codes Training Program?

Shawn: The “Lessons Learned from CA” session was an insightful one. The Title 24 code program in California is supported by all the investor-owned utilities, private-public partnership agencies called regional energy networks, and multiple individual state and private training and advocacy programs.  Illinois could learn from this model of broad support, input, and collaboration to better share resources, meet local community needs, and advance state codes. I really like the idea of regional networks providing support to officials and builders at a local level.

Ryan: : From a training perspective, I would consider developing an education program tailored more to people’s roles in building development, construction, and operations. I would like to explore providing more targeted training tailored to the role rather than the general training, i.e., energy raters, inspectors, architects, plans examiner, etc.

How about best practices that could be applied in Illinois?

Shawn: Regional Energy Networks (RENs)! We have many different code support programs in Illinois with SEDAC, MEEA, Elevate, and others all working on outreach and training related to energy codes, but we’re not very coordinated at this time. We can start developing IL-RENs to support local communities in their region with circuit riders, technical support, and face-to-face interactions.


Boundaries between related programs need to be managed. Not managing boundaries can lead to duplication of efforts as well as confusion about which program applies to the user. Though, overlap is okay when intentional. Another best practice that stood out to me is the need for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure to take into account circuit sharing or load management. This is particularly the case with the new Illinois Electric Vehicle Charging Act (765 ILCS 1085) that took effect this year. With no load management, 24 EV spaces could require 800-1,200 amps. With load management, however, this would be reduced to as little as 150 amps while still providing the charging that people need.

Did anything memorable happen?

Shawn:  Illinois alone represented 7% (20 members) at this conference! That’s a pretty big number for a conference halfway across the nation! We had members from MEEA, SEDAC, PHIUS, IGA, and Elevate all meet at various times to discuss what we’ve been learning at the conference. Also, at the end of the conference, a few attendees gathered in the lobby to play “Daybreak,” a board game about global warming and international cooperation to mitigate it.

Ryan: The Sacramento Municipal Utility District provided a tour of their East Operations Center before the conference started. They demonstrated several unique design choices for building conditioning, which were involved but based on simple physics. This allowed the site to have mechanical systems that were less than 1/5 the size of those at their downtown center, which was built using typical design principles. Pumps, piping, and ductwork were far smaller than one typically sees in commercial buildings. A big difference was the separation of building conditioning from ventilation, which dramatically reduced the conditioning needs as only the ventilation air needed to be moved around.

For others who haven’t attended before, in your opinion what are the reasons that someone should attend?

Shawn:  The biggest reason is networking – connecting with other energy code professionals and enthusiasts to discuss lessons learned, challenges, and solutions to help us all find new ways forward, spawn ideas for improved programs, and keep us up to date on regional code developments, as well as the status of the nation as a whole. It is also encouraging that this conference regularly has 50% or more new attendees each year, showing that code support is growing in the younger generations. Momentum for code implementation and advancement can be maintained or increased over the coming years.

Ryan: It helps people to make connections with others across the country who approach the energy code from different perspectives, including those who are from different advocacy groups, those who perform national energy modeling, code officials, and code developers and adopters.