The 2012 North Carolina Energy Code will affect your building decisions

CarolinaFireJournal - By John Kelley and Brian Griffith
By John Kelley and Brian Griffith
01/23/2014 -

Often circumstances require a fire or rescue department to consider either adding space to their current facility or building in a new location. These include population growth, new commercial development, changes in the fire district itself or the addition of equipment to maintain or improve a station’s ISO rating.


A factor that must now be included in the decision making process is the 2012 NC Energy Code. Adding to or renovating an existing building may require the building, or a portion of the building, come into compliance with the energy code.

While it may be costly to bring an existing building into compliance, this process should only be one of the factors in the decision making process. Other factors such as response time, the safety of personnel both inside the building and going to and from an incident, the availability and cost of property and the property’s ability to be developed may carry more weight in the process.

2012 NC Energy Code Requirements for Existing Buildings

The new code requirements are a component of building “green” and are beneficial to the department, the community and the environment. With new construction, it is generally easier to incorporate the requirements into the design process and also easier to see the return on investment. When renovating or making additions to existing buildings, the evaluation may be a little more difficult.

A change in the occupancy or use of an existing building requires the building to come into compliance with the code. The scope of an addition/renovation may require the same. The building and its systems must first be inspected and evaluated to determine a path to compliance. The code allows for several different options for determining compliance with ASHRAE 90-1, using NC COMcheck to demonstrate compliance and evaluating the Total Building Performance. Here, we will explain the COMcheck method of compliance. Your design and contracting professionals can help you evaluate the best method of compliance as well as any exceptions to the compliance that are available for your particular situation.

The systems or components that are required to come into compliance using the NC COMcheck are:

Building Envelope
The building envelope is the elements of the building that enclose the conditioned space such as the slab, roof and walls. Items such as the air infiltration and insulation locations and R value need to be determined.

Building Mechanical Systems
The existing heating, cooling and ventilation systems would need to be evaluated to determine their efficiency and energy usage. Often replacing an older HVAC system with a higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating can accomplish the goal of compliance.

Service Water Heater
As with the Mechanical Systems, the method of heating the domestic water has to be evaluated for efficiency and energy usage. Newer models of hot water heaters may comply with the code.

Electrical Power and Lighting
Upgrading the mechanical systems and water heater will reduce the building’s energy usage. In addition, the code has requirements for the energy usage for other items such as the lighting. The code limits the wattage per square foot for lighting depending upon the use of the space. The existing lights may have to be replaced with more efficient lighting or the quantity of fixtures per room reduced. Occupancy sensors that turn lights off when no one is in a room may also be required.

Additional Requirement
In addition to the above requirements, the designer has to demonstrate meeting an additional requirement of their choosing. The available options include: installing more efficient mechanical systems than the code minimum; reducing lighting power density by 10 percent; providing energy recovery ventilation systems such as air to air heat exchangers; installing a more efficient water heating system than the code minimum; adding an on-site renewable energy source such as solar panels; or adding an automatic daylight zone control system to turn off lights when there is sufficient daylight.

This article is not intended to be a Do-It-Yourself guide. Consultation with your design and contracting professionals can help you evaluate the ramifications and costs of bringing a building or portions of a building into compliance with the 2012 NC Energy Code.

Getting these answers as well as evaluating the cost and availability of land can help a fire or rescue department make an informed decision of whether to add to and/or renovate an existing station or to build a new station.

John Kelley is Vice President, Business Development of Bobbitt Design Build, Inc.Brian Griffith, AIA, LEED BD+C is a Principal Architect of Bobbitt A&E, PLLC.
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