Organization Promotes Adoption, Integrity of Standard 90.1
By, Kimberly Schwartz
ASHRAE is committed to improving the efficiency of the built environment. That commitment
is best exhibited through ASHRAE’s standards, which, through constant improvement, continue
to raise the bar for building efficiency.
Currently, ASHRAE is developing the 2016 version of Standard 90.1, the “Energy Standard for
Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.” Yet, the organization continues to push for
the adoption of earlier versions of this standard at the state level. ASHRAE is also committed to
maintaining the integrity of 90.1 as a baseline standard for high-performance buildings across the
Drake Erbe, vice president, market development, Airxchange Inc., is the chair of the ASHRAE
90.1 – 2016 committee, and he is overflowing with positive comments about the volunteers who
devote their time to the development of 90.1.
“ASHRAE 90.1 is a very, very big deal in terms of the effort, commitment, and level of
dedication involved,” Erbe said, noting there are around 100 volunteers currently involved in the
development of the 2016 version.
Erbe previously served as the mechanical subcommittee chair for both the 2007 and 2010
versions of 90.1 and as the co-vice chair of the 2013 version. He’s been involved in the 90.1
development process for a long time and is very proud of the success ASHRAE has had with its
consensus approach to standard making.
“We created a standard process that says we’re not doing industry fights,” he said. “We want
consensus with the advocates, the industry, and all stakeholders. … This process has worked
As examples, Erbe pointed to gains in chiller, furnace, and boiler efficiencies that have been
incorporated into recent versions of 90.1, all of which were amicably achieved, he said.
Erbe noted ASHRAE follows the ANSI standard process, which includes engaging all
stakeholders and holding public reviews.
“It’s a complex process — one that many people think might be slow — but, it’s methodical and
careful because it is the intent of all of the volunteers and ASHRAE that what we do actually
gets realized in the marketplace,” he said.
According to Erbe, ASHRAE is careful when developing 90.1, since the standard is designed to
function as a baseline requirement for all commercial and high-rise residential buildings.
“We strive to push the boundaries somewhat,” he said. “But, we also have to be reasonable
because this sets minimum requirements, and everyone has to comply.”
Last fall, the increased efficiencies required by 90.1-2013 were recognized by the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE) when the department issued an announcement adopting the 2013
version of 90.1 as the commercial building reference standard for state building energy codes. In
the Sept. 26, 2014, issue of the Federal Register, DOE stated, “buildings built to Standard 90.1-
2013, as compared with buildings built to Standard 90.1-2010, would result in national source
energy savings of approximately 8.5 percent and site energy savings of approximately 7.6
percent of commercial building energy consumption.”
According to a press release sent out at the same time, ASHRAE president Tom Phoenix said:
“ASHRAE is pleased with this ruling from the DOE, recognizing the energy savings measures in
Yet, while the DOE’s endorsement of the 90.1-2013 is intended to trigger state adoption of the
standard, there is no uniform path to nationwide acceptance.
Erbe explained that after the DOE issues its ruling, states have “two years to confirm their
building code is equal to or better than ASHRAE 90.1-2013.” He continued, “Unfortunately, one
of the problems is, of course, that state adoption is varied.”
The map below shows the current status of adoption across the country. As of today, 15 states
have adopted the 2010 version of 90.1, but some states have no statewide code while others are
still using the 2001, 2004, and 2007 versions of 90.1. The DOE tracks the adoption status at
“We want to see universal adoption of the 2010 standard, and then we can start pushing the
envelope [to 2013],” Erbe said. “It’s great that 2013 [has been accepted by DOE], but, in reality,
various levels of 90.1 are being used at the state level, and, therefore, various efficiencies are
Realized in the Market
While ASHRAE continues to push for increased adoption of more recent versions of 90.1 across
all states, the organization is also striving to uphold the integrity of its standard. According to
Erbe, the organization is concerned that recent actions by the DOE are undermining the
consensus process that has resulted in the development of 90.1.
When DOE issues new rules that go beyond the minimums established in 90.1, Erbe said it
lessens the likelihood that the standard will be followed in the market.
“That’s why the volunteers do their work — they’re interested in making sure this stuff gets to
the ground,” Erbe said. “There’s a lot of hard work that’s being done by the volunteers of 90.1,
and they’re all working for the purpose of getting the standards down to the ground. Otherwise,
you’re just publishing a book.
“Above all, ASHRAE is striving for Standard 90.1 to be technologically feasible and
economically justified, so it gets into the marketplace,” concluded Erbe.