11 Scopus citations


Problem, research strategy, and findings: Increased demand for urban living, financial incentives for redevelopment, and conducive planning regulations are leading to significant commercial building reuse. This trend represents an opportunity to upgrade the energy performance of the existing building stock in older, more walkable downtowns and to achieve preservation goals. Some advocates of building reuse resist imposing the cost of energy improvements on associated projects, while many energy efficiency advocates do not distinguish how the opportunities and constraints differ between new and existing buildings. Building code officials experience this tension when reviewing improvements to existing buildings, and many find that sections of the widely adopted International Energy Conservation Code are pragmatically unenforceable. In this study we examine the existing-building energy challenge using a mixed-methods approach within one region as well as a national-level analysis of governmental data. We characterize promising regulatory strategies including exempting historic buildings (which is the status quo), exempting smaller buildings and less energy-intensive occupancies and systems, and creating simple lookup tables that provide succinct guidance to redevelopers and code officials. Takeaway for practice: Code officials enforce longstanding life-safety codes more assiduously than they do the newer energy codes, and these codes need revisions to make them more cost effective and enforceable. A better understanding and implementation of building energy codes can have positive implications for both energy performance and downtown revitalization. Success depends on better managing interdependencies among the national policy objective of energy efficiency, the ubiquitous local planning objective of downtown revitalization, and the bureaucratic challenges of regulating construction in existing buildings. Planners should bring code officials into adaptive reuse projects early.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-133
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the American Planning Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies


  • building codes
  • buildings
  • energy efficiency
  • redevelopment
  • regulation


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