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Energy Efficiency

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Lee Salamone
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A key market for plastics is energy-efficient products used in building and construction. State energy conservation building codes are a major driver in increasing the demand for such products as plastic insulating materials. These codes set minimum standards for energy efficiency in residential and commercial construction. They also help establish a level playing field to market building products statewide, regionally, and nationally. State and local jurisdictions often use national model energy codes as a starting point for their own codes.

The building energy codes include minimum requirements for energy-efficient design and construction for new as well as renovated residential and commercial buildings. Energy codes provide a baseline of requirements for constructing energy efficient buildings and homes.

There are two primary model building energy codes adopted by states and local jurisdictions to regulate the design and construction of buildings: the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1. The IECC is an “I” Code and addresses all residential and commercial buildings. ASHRAE 90.1 applies to commercial buildings, defined as buildings other than single-family dwellings and multi-family buildings three stories or less above grade. The IECC thus far has adopted, by reference, ASHRAE 90.1, which means that complying with ASHRAE 90.1 provides an alternate path for compliance with IECC for commercial buildings.

Recent trends in model energy code development to increase the energy efficiency of exterior building envelopes result in higher levels of insulation to meet increased R-Value requirements. As building designers seek to achieve this improved efficiency, they will look for innovative solutions to simplify design and limit the overall wall thickness while complying with more stringent code requirements. Polyurethane insulation offers solutions that can provide greater thermal resistance, along with improved air barrier performance.

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