‘Bats’ – not ‘Sticks’: Building Energy Regulations Should Encourage Innovation

Peter Graham's picture
19-04-2013 | Peter Graham | Global, 全球, South-East Asia, South-East Asia
Categories: Buildings Energy Efficiency Codes

It is well known that to be most effective policy strategies need to be organized into packages that optimize the combination of regulations, incentives and voluntary schemes. These three components are often referring to as ‘sticks’, ‘carrots’ and ‘tambourines’. However, our analysis of global best-practice building codes shows that the world’s best performance-based regulations are being designed to encourage and stimulate innovation rather than simply punish poor performance.

‘Sticks’ or ‘Bats’? ‘Bats’ therefore appears a better analogy to describe the value of these best practice building energy efficiency codes. Rather than simply threatening practitioners with being punished for non-compliance, these regulations provide policy-makers with efficient tools for reaching better performance goals. That’s why at the GBPN, we define these best-practice performance codes, as ‘bats’ not ‘sticks’.

              Figure: GBPN’s Approach to Market Transformation 
I am writing this in the gate lounge at Delhi International airport after a week in cricket-mad India. A legend of the sport here is the batsman Sachin Tendulkar (photo of him in action below). His performance goal is to score runs – the ball is his opportunity. Can you imagine a batsman in any sport smashing the ball into the pitch rather than trying to belt it out of the park? 
Unfortunately, some regulations do operate that way, effectively squashing energy efficiency innovation by over prescribing minimum performance requirements of building elements. The alternative is setting performance targets for the whole building and letting the industry develop effective and innovative ways of achieving them.
The best-practice regulations identified by GBPN are bats, not sticks, because they encourage innovation. The policy makers that design and implement them are the batsmen and women. Together they empower the industry to achieve the goal of saving energy and reducing GHG emissions.  


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Energy efficiency codes set minimum requirements for the energy-efficient design and construction/renovation of new and existing buildings. [Source: Cochrane & Dunn (2010), Energy Codes 101: A Primer for Sustainability Policy Makers, Working Paper, Reservation Green Lab].

The calculated or measured amount of energy needed to meet the energy demand associated with a typical use of the buildings, which includes inter alia, energy used for heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water and lighting (EU). [Source: EPBD recast, 2010/31/EU]

A positive energy building is a building that on average over the year produces more energy from renewable energy sources than it imports from external sources. This is achieved using combination of small power generators and low-energy building techniques such as passive solar building design, insulation and careful site selection and placement. [Source: European Commission]

Prescriptive building codes set standards that specify all of the materials, configurations and processes required to achieve a desired regulatory goal. [Source: Laustsen (2009) Energy Efficiency Requirements in Building Codes, Energy Efficiency Policies for New Buildings]