Changes to PA UCC Code: Lighting Code Changes 2009 vs 2015 IECC

“Hearing can be deceiving, seeing is believing, but feeling – that’s the naked truth” is a phrase which can be applied to many highly anticipated events in life. For the building industry, Pennsylvania’s long-awaited jump to the 2015 (2018 in Philadelphia) ICC International Codes last October was one of these greatly anticipated events. Historically, anticipation has run high before each code update since significant impacts to the current cost of both design and construction seem to follow.

One code in particular – the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which establishes energy utilization criteria for new buildings as well as additions and renovations to existing – has been one of the more highly anticipated code updates. With heightened global concern for establishing more stringent requirements directed at energy-savings, the 2015 IECC aims to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, provide much-needed relief to an aging utility infrastructure, and respond to the steady rise in cost of energy. In doing so, the 2015 IECC looks to save Commercial Building Owners upwards of 25-30% more energy than the 2009 version of the code.

Lighting is one obvious focus when it comes to minimizing energy use in buildings. Since the early 1900s, the mass production of inefficient light sources and lack of mandatory lighting control requirements has allowed lighting to remain as the single largest consumer of electricity in commercial buildings. However, with continued technological advancements in energy-efficient LED lighting and more robust automated lighting control systems, now more than ever the building industry has the tools ready to support the goals of the IECC 2015 code.

The new code targets aspects of both lighting and its control systems design in the following ways:

Lower Maximum Allowances for Total Lighting Power Consumption in Buildings

The tables defining the maximum allowance for total lighting power consumption in each space and building type have been revised to much lower values requiring the use of more efficient light sources to meet code.

Increased Requirements for Automatic Shutoff, Dimming, and Daylight-Responsive Controls

With few exceptions, automatic shutoff control is now required for all commercial buildings, even those that are smaller than 5,000 sq. ft. Implementation of automatic shutoff control devices (occupancy sensors, elapsed-time switches, and astronomic timeclock) is defined in detail for each space type. Another significant change is that spaces with occupancy sensing controls are no longer exempt from needing dimming controls. Increased control requirements for daylit areas of a building are also prominent in the new code. In past code versions, manual on/off controls were permitted for controlling electric lighting in daylit zones. Now daylight-responsive automatic controls that offer continuous dimming of electric lighting in daylit zones are required in many applications.

Mandated Commissioning

To ensure the design meets code and performs as intended, lighting and lighting controls have now been added to the list of systems that are required to be commissioned. Upon completion of construction, these systems must be functionally tested, and the results reported to and approved by the Design Professional. Documentation of system commissioning must then by turned over to the Owner for their records within 90 days of occupancy.

Overall, the positive environmental impacts generated by the 2015 IECC are anticipated to greatly outweigh the potential increase in cost of construction to implement the energy efficient strategies outlined above. But, as many building owners know, only time will tell.

To learn more about how lighting design will impact your next building project, please contact Jennifer Harrington, PE, LC, LEED AP at (814) 237-2180 or