2020 City of Boulder Energy Conservation Code Explained! (COBECC 2020) [Video]

Date Published: September 18, 2020

The 2020 City of Boulder Energy Conservation Code is here, what does that mean?

The City of Boulder Energy Conservation Code (COBECC 2020) was adopted in July of 2020. As Boulder states on its website, “The city updates our energy code on a three-year cycle with the goal of attaining net-zero energy, outcome-verified code by 2031 to meet broader city-wide climate commitment goals.”

This new energy code brings sweeping changes to how residential construction projects achieve compliance in the city, most notably that new construction houses over 3000 sq ft are now required to achieve HERS net-zero scores.

A Quick Note: An ERI (Energy Rating Index) is the term that COBECC 2020 and other energy codes use to score homes. This index is found by performing a HERS rating on a home to find the HERS score. Throughout the video and the article, we use these terms interchangeably. If you want to learn more about these terms, visit the RESNET website here

In addition to the city’s overall goal of better performing new construction homes, remodels can be categorized differently under the new “Levels of Alteration.”

Achieving HERS (ERI) Net Zero on new construction homes

The sliding scale that the city used in COBECC 2017 just got a lot shorter.  The previous energy codes required HERS (ERI) scores of zero on houses larger than 5000 sq ft, but that requirement has been pushed to 3000 sq ft.

A HERS score of zero can only be achieved with the installation of Photo Voltaics (PV) systems, more commonly known as solar panels.  If you are building a new construction house in the city of Boulder, plan on a sizable PV system for compliance.

If you are interested in learning more about HERS scores and how that process works, check out our 4 part HERS rating guide!

What about remodels and renovations?

COBECC 2017 had a notoriously confusing system of “structural assessment” and “construction valuations” to determine the appropriate energy pathway for compliance.

Some remodels could even be pushed into new construction requirements under this system!  Thankfully, that is all gone.  A new system of “Alterations” has been built into the COBECC 2020 that is based on the scope of work and determines the pathway to compliance.

COBECC 2020 Alterations

Level 1 and 2 Alterations do not require a HERS score at all.  Level 3 Alterations allow for a baseline score to be established on the existing house and then a 30% performance increase is required.

Level 4 Alterations are reserved for significant projects on existing houses and new construction HERS scores with a 10% lenience granted are required.  Projects that include both an addition and a renovation are reviewed by the city based on the scope of work and would need to achieve either the addition or alteration requirements.

A Brief Overview of COBECC 2020

This is a fairly quick overview of the city of Boulder’s Energy Conservation Code. There are many more specifics and details that are included. You can read the entire document here as well.

If you would like to speak with one of our energy specialists, feel free to send us an email at [email protected] Before you leave, check out all of our energy services geared towards helping builders and architects.

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About the Author: Joe Ophoff

Joe Ophoff has been working as an energy efficiency specialist since 2014. He is the Energy Services Manager at Scott Home Inspection in Colorado.

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