Tomorrow, July 1, will bring a literal and metaphorical breath of fresh air to Washington state’s energy codes.
After years of being optional, Dedicated Outdoor Air Systems (DOAS) will become required when following the prescriptive energy code compliance path for several types of new construction (and retrofits) throughout the state.
While the real-word impact of this code change will be complex, McKinstry’s engineering team is ready to design the best possible solutions for our clients within this new paradigm.
As July 1 nears, we thought it’d be helpful to share some answers to common questions we’ve been asked about the code change:
What, exactly, is happening on July 1?
As part of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code cycle, Washington state passed a new commercial construction code which mandates prescriptive (instead of optional) DOAS requirements for certain building types. While the overall 2015 energy code went into effect on July 1, 2016, the specific DOAS provision of the code becomes prescriptive on July 1, 2017.
In a more holistic sense, what’s happening is that more buildings in Washington will now be separating their ventilation system from their heating and cooling system. In concrete terms, this means one air handler for ventilation air and then separate equipment in each zone for heating and cooling.
While the air handler will continuously operate to provide ventilation air during occupied hours, zone heating and cooling equipment will turn on and off throughout the day in response to zone loads. This approach better-regulates the intake of outside air and eliminates simultaneous (and wasteful) heating and cooling of the same space. It also has the potential to provide fan energy savings when compared to traditional all-air systems.
Why does it matter?
It matters for lots of reasons! Most importantly, it’s a fundamental change in how the Washington construction industry approaches HVAC system selection. We expect to see more discussion and questions related to zone options for heating and cooling. In addition—with more overall equipment to maintain in many buildings—building operators will have to adjust accordingly.
Building occupants will notice a difference when HVAC systems have separate ventilation and space conditioning features. Space heating and cooling systems will turn off when they’re not actively needed or used.
Who will it affect?
This specific code change applies to five building types: Office, education, retail buildings, libraries and fire stations. This will mostly affect new construction, but will also apply to many retrofits. Specifics can be found here.
What is McKinstry doing about it?
As engineers, we’ve participated in the conversation ever since this code change was first raised as a possibility. We’re prepared to guide our clients through this new paradigm and explore the pros and cons of system choices.
Ultimately, this shift to a DOAS requirement has enabled our engineering team to prepare and educate our clients, sparked robust discussions (both amongst ourselves and with code regulators) and presented McKinstry with an opportunity to gather helpful new energy data.
If we peer into our crystal ball, it’s easy to see this July 1 shift won’t be the only code change coming soon to Washington. For example, the City of Seattle’s energy code will soon be requiring triple pane window glazing for some buildings unless they install a non-electric resistance/non-fossil fuel-based heating system.
Later this year, we’ll begin reviewing and offering feedback on the proposed 2018 Washington state energy code alongside our colleagues on the engineering team, giving us a first-hand look at the future in that arena.
Lastly, we’ll be participating as experts in overall code development as the entire state looks to meet the worthy goal of a 70 percent reduction in net annual energy consumption by 2031, as compared to 2006.
The future of energy codes in Washington may be complex, but it’s also exciting and cutting-edge. Our engineering team is ready to lead the way by designing buildings and systems that make our clients as modern, innovative, and energy efficient as they can possibly be.
Kristina Sing is Director of Engineering for McKinstry’s Seattle-based Energy team as well as our Portland office.
Michael Frank is McKinstry’s Director of Engineering.
Caroline Traube is McKinstry’s Lead Building Performance Engineer.