Three years ago, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) set out to achieve new efficiency goals for Standard 90.1. The association announced at its 2011 winter conference in January that it had been successful. ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2010, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, achieves site energy savings of 32.6 percent and energy cost savings of 30.1 percent without plug loads. Including plug loads, the site energy savings are estimated at 25.5 percent and energy cost savings 24 percent. On a nationally aggregated level, building type energy savings ranged from 8.8 percent to 38.3 percent and energy cost savings from 7.9 percent to 33.6 percent. These figures include energy use and cost from plug loads.

The new standard was published in November of 2010, but ASHRAE was awaiting the final results of analysis work from Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in support of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Energy Codes Program on addenda included in the standard.

“Three years ago, the 90.1 project committee set an aggressive goal of 30 percent savings for the 2010 version,” said Lynn G. Bellenger, president of ASHRAE. “That the target was met and exceeded is a testament to the talent and dedication of the men and women from ASHRAE and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) who developed and evaluated over 119 change proposals to increase the stringency of our flagship energy conservation standard. At the 35th anniversary of Standard 90.1, it continues to lead the way in our industry as the minimum standard for energy efficiency.”


According to ASHRAE, the energy reductions were achieved in multiple ways; the following are some examples. The scope was expanded so that 90.1 covers receptacles and process loads, including data centers. This allows future addenda to the standard to address energy consuming equipment and systems previously outside its scope. In regards to the building envelope, continuous air barrier and cool/high albedo roof requirements were added. As for lighting, most interior lighting power densities were lowered and additional occupant sensing controls and mandatory daylighting requirements were added for specific spaces, along with a new five-zone exterior lighting power density table. On the mechanical side, most equipment efficiencies are higher, energy re- covery is required in more applications, economizers are required in more climates, and more energy-conserving controls are required as well. Modeling requirements have been clarified and expanded so that building modelers can more accurately compare energy cost of their building project with an appropriate baseline building as defined by the standard.

“The 90.1 standard is a fluid document,” said Mick Schwedler, immediate past chair of the 90.1 committee. “As technology evolves, the project committee is continually considering new changes and proposing addenda for public review. The rigorous, open, public review process following ASHRAE and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) procedures results in a document that is both technically sound and reaches consensus.”

Extensive analysis work was performed by a team from Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in support of the DOE Building Energy Codes Program. Sixteen different building prototypes were modeled in 17 different climate zones for a total of 272 building types and climate zone combinations.

The standard is written in mandatory code language and offers code bodies the opportunity to make a significant improvement in the energy efficiency of new buildings, additions, and major renovations. “As we look ahead to exploring new areas of energy savings from energy consuming equipment and systems, we will seek input from materially affected and interested parties. We welcome their input to help the project committee in this endeavor,” said Steve Skalko, current chair of the committee.


ASHRAE has been busy on many sustainable fronts and was glad to see the federal government continuing to provide legislative support for building sustainability measures when President Obama signed the Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act into law in mid-December. The law will reportedly provide training for federal building personnel in the areas of building operations and maintenance, energy management, safety, and design functions.

According to ASHRAE, the legislation will help provide federal workers with the necessary training to construct and maintain environmentally sound buildings. Federal workers will be able to be trained in a series of core competencies relating to building operations, maintenance, energy management, and safety and future performance. Workers can take courses and be able to obtain licenses and certification for their efforts. “This law is a significant advancement for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of our nation’s federal buildings,” said Bellenger.

“ASHRAE applauds the federal government for demonstrating what can be accomplished in building and maintaining energy-efficient buildings with excellent indoor environmental quality.”


New standards and federal training legislation are contributing to the sustainable building movement in the United States. It is important, however, not to leave out the significance of HVAC equipment efficiency and its effect on building efficiency. President Obama launched the Better Buildings Initiative earlier this month with the aim to bring about a 20 percent improvement in building efficiency by 2020 by reforming the tax code, promoting more creative financing, and providing targeted government grants for efficiency improvements.

“As longtime leaders in energy efficiency, the manufacturers of HVACR and water heating equipment are eager to work with the president, his administration, and Congress on ways to accelerate replacement of older heating, cooling, refrigeration, and water heating equipment components with today’s more technologically ad- vanced, energy efficient, and en- vironmentally friendly models,” said Stephen Yurek, president and CEO, Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). 

Yurek went on to suggest that in order to have confidence in the projected energy usage of a facility, architects, engineers, and building owners should insist on installing only AHRI performance certified equipment.

AHRI is also calling on Congress and the White House to work together to establish and enhance tax incentives for commercial equipment. Yurek noted that AHRI has put forward two separate proposals to Capitol Hill that would reduce the depreciation period for the less efficient commercial equipment currently installed and in use, and provide tax incentives for replacement of equipment that uses a refrigerant that has been discontinued. 

“The unrealistically lengthy depreciation period for commercial HVACR and water heating equipment - 39 years - is what keeps building owners from replacing them in a more timely manner and, therefore, from saving energy and installing more energy efficient and environmentally friendly products,” he explained. “We hope that this initiative might be the catalyst we need to finally get this beneficial legislation through Congress.”

Publication date: 02/28/2011