Energy Code



Learn what others are doing around the world.

Singapore: Singapore's Green Building Standards and Masterplan includes building energy consumption benchmarking, periodic audits, and mandatory retrocommissioning for underperforming equipment and systems.

Seattle, WA: Washington's energy code, including additional Seattle provisions, offer a form of outcome-based energy code compliance. In exchange for increased design flexibility and reduced mandatory building requirements, commercial buildings following the "target performance" approach agree to provide utility billing data to demonstrate energy performance.

Boulder, CO: The city's Building Performance ordinance requires commercial and industrial buildings to rate and report annual energy use, complete periodic energy audits, and perform cost-effective energy tune-ups ever 10 years.

Other Resources

The National Institute of Building Sciences and New Buildings Institute have published a guidance document for cities considering outcome-based code.

The 2018 International Green Construction Code (IGCC) provides the design and construction industry with an effective way to deliver sustainable, resilient, high-performance buildings. IGCC includes options for outcome-based code.


CEA continues to seek out opportunities to drive meaningful, innovative policy improvements that support California’s strategic energy and environmental goals including grid integration and decarbonization. The CEA believes that development and implementation of an outcome-based energy code (OBC) represents one such opportunity.

What is outcome-based energy code?

OBC relies on measured energy to determine compliance with energy codes instead of estimates based on expected connected load or modeling. In addition, OBC captures whole building energy use including process loads and other miscellaneous electric loads (MELs), which often go unaddressed by performance or prescriptive energy code compliance approaches. With an OBC approach, buildings are often monitored, post-occupancy, for a predetermined time period or periodically over many years. This data can then be used to determine if additional energy conservation measures are needed to bring the building in-line with mandatory energy requirements. Strategies such as equipment tune-ups and retrocommissioning may then be deployed to improve building energy performance.


  • Simplifies regulatory requirements

  • Minimizes prescriptive requirements and complex modeling

  • Supports design innovation by allowing increased latitude to use systems and strategies that meet the functional and aesthetic goals for a building

  • Recognizes and rewards energy efficiency

  • Offers flexibility for adoption of new technologies

OBC workshop_1.jpg

inaugural, daylong workshop in San Diego, California

More than 40 energy leaders from across the state and the nation gathered to focus on OBC, representing research institutions, policy makers, environmental organizations, design professionals, the building automation industry, electrical contractors, labor and national research laboratories.

As we put increasing performance demands on our buildings such as incorporating more connectivity, internet of things, battery storage, on-site generation, frequent changes in space utilization, and other contemporaneous trends, there is a need to better understand buildings as integrated systems. This requires real-time or near real-time measurement and analysis of actual energy use in order to optimize system performance. We cannot continue to make deep and necessary gains in building energy efficiency without consideration of actual building performance.

The CEA’s work is currently focusing on foundational aspects, including a comprehensive review of adoption pathways, compliance and enforcement needs, and exploration of the necessary steps needed to enable a practical, statewide OBC program. Recent activities have resulted in an initial roadmap toward next steps, including necessary research, further outreach and collaboration with stakeholder organizations, engagement with jurisdictions already experienced in OBC, and identifying the pathways toward marketplace consensus necessary for ultimate adoption and implementation.

Join us!

CEA launched its OBC initiative in December 2018, with the goal of realizing an OBC compliance approach for California’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards.

Current Practice

There are two compliance paths available under California’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Title 24, Part 6):

  • The prescriptive path most often used for retrofit and small new construction projects

  • The performance path most often used for large, new construction and major renovation projects

The prescriptive path is complex, and the performance path requires complex and expensive modeling. Neither approach accurately captures actual building energy performance. Thus, there is a persistent gap between the energy savings California claims and the actual energy savings that materialize.