Buildings constructed according to supposedly strict energy efficiency codes may not be terribly green after all, a new study finds. The research, conducted by the Georgetown economist Arik Levinson and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, might well drain the batteries of energy-efficient building code advocates.
Levinson compared homes built under California's post-1978 energy building codes to California homes not built to those standards, and to buildings of various ages in other states not built to California codes, while controlling for factors such as home size and weather.
Proponents of the codes predicted reductions of up to 80 percent in energy use. But Levinson found "no evidence that homes constructed since California instituted its building energy codes use less electricity today than homes built before the codes came into effect."
New and old buildings might use similar amounts of energy because older homes made similar upgrades even without the codes forcing them to do so. Or perhaps owners of the "energy-efficient" homes responded to lowered lighting or air conditioning costs by using more energy. But if you advocate such codes because they in and of themselves cause less energy to be consumed, this study suggests you ought to get your mental wiring examined.