Aiming to advance energy-efficient building codes, the U.S. Dept. of Energy has awarded $90 million in grants to state agencies, nonprofits and and other organizations around the country to provide technical assistance and support for building code implementation efforts. 

The grants, which DOE announced on July 12, will go to 27 projects in 26 states and the District of Columbia. The funding comes from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The largest grant was $9.6 million, to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, based in Washington, D.C., to establish a "National Energy Codes Collaborative." 

Also on the list is the Metropolitan Energy Center in Kansas City, Mo., which was awarded $6.8 million for outreach and expanding the energy-code workforce in rural and disadvantaged communities in Kansas and Missouri.

Other winners include ASHRAE and the University of Cincinnati—each receiving $2.9 million—and the Massachusetts Dept. of Energy Resources, with $5 million.

ASHRAE's grant money will fund the “Energy Code Official - Training & Education Collaborative” (ECO-TEC), a project spearheaded by national model code organizations, including ASHRAE and the International Code Council (ICC), with support from Oregon, Michigan, New Jersey, and West Virginia state agencies.

"The ECO-TEC will significantly contribute to advancing energy efficiency and resilience in our buildings, ultimately leading to a more sustainable future," said ASHRAE Executive Vice President Jeff Littleton in a statement. Littleton is also serving as principal investigator for ECO-TEC. 

"By empowering code officials and professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills, we can effectively transform the built environment and promote sustainable practices nationwide," he added. 

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm noted in a statement that cutting greenhouse gas emissions from buildings is a critical component of President Joe Biden's plan to cut overall U.S. carbon emissions and "create cleaner and healthier communities." 

DOE estimates that by 2040, modern residential and commercial building energy codes will help save $138 billion in utility bills and reduce U.S. carbon output by 900 million metric tons. But the department also says that adoption of modern codes remains a challenge.

According to DOE, grant recipients are leading key activities around the country that will promote education about updated building codes and standards, through such activities as workforce development, community engagement, research and data collection, equity and environmental justice, as well as increased support for compliance and enforcement.  

"Awardees will help develop, attract, and train new workers and retain existing workers to bolster a skilled and diverse workforce that is well-versed in modern building standards," DOE said. 

Missing from the list of award recipients are building owners and building owner associations, said Larry Spielvogel, a Pennsylvania-based engineering veteran, consultant and former ASHRAE board member. He said in an interview with ENR that those entities "are just as much, or more, of an influence in the development, implementation and compliance with energy codes than the grantees.”

Spielvogel added, "Not a single grantee represents organizations whose members are primarily architects, engineers, contractors, journeymen, owners, developers, operators of buildings and product manufacturers.” He said all are subject to energy codes and pay to implement them, also noting that no utility companies received grants. 

As a result, he said it is difficult to see how much influence the selected projects will have on updating and influencing adoption of energy-efficient building energy codes. 

"With so many grantees with widely varying energy goals all trying to influence energy codes, there will almost certainly be numerous conflicts among and between the grant recipients [along with] conflicts among other groups also looking to influence the codes," said Spielvogel.