Managing New Requirements for Energy Code Envelope Backstop Calculations

Managing New Requirements for Energy Code Envelope Backstop Calculations

With each energy code cycle, policymakers continue to increase the stringency of prescriptive envelope requirements to reduce building energy consumption. Encouraging well-insulated, airtight buildings with minimal thermal bridges and careful glazing placement based on orientation and sun position can decrease the loads on mechanical systems and help meet sustainability goals for carbon emissions. However, these requirements can seem prohibitive to the design process. When designers prefer highly glazed facades, they often turn to energy models (a performance-based code compliance approach) to demonstrate energy code compliance. This approach includes tradeoffs to offset lower-than-code-performance envelope systems with higher-performance mechanical and lighting systems. To place some limits on the tradeoff practice, New York State and Massachusetts policymakers have introduced “envelope backstop” calculations that restrict how far designers can stray from the prescriptive code requirements. Similar requirements could be introduced in other jurisdictions in future energy code updates.

This webinar will introduce the new envelope backstop calculation methods introduced in New York State and Massachusetts and review when this calculation is required for compliance. We will use a simple case study to compare the two calculation methods and demonstrate the impact of simple envelope system design changes. We will also share best practices when calculating the envelope backstop and review potential unintended implications that contradict the policymakers’ goals of reducing building energy consumption.


After attending this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Understand when an envelope backstop calculation is required for energy code compliance.
  • Recognize policymaker goals for introducing the envelope backstop calculation.
  • Understand envelope backstop calculation approaches for New York State and Massachusetts.
  • Implement best practices during the design phase to successfully calculate the envelope backstop and document compliance.

Participants will earn 1.0 AIA CES Learning Unit (LU/HSW) for attending the live webinar. Registration is free. Please note that space is limited – email events@sgh.com to join our waitlist if the session is closed when you register. 

About the Speaker

Sophia Salah
Sophia Salah | Senior Project Manager

Sophia Salah has practical experience in both the West Coast and New England regions. She enjoys applying lessons learned from investigations and collaborating with contractors and designers to develop functioning air, water, thermal, and vapor control layers for building enclosure systems of commercial buildings, health care facilities, and residential-use buildings. Her expertise lies in building enclosure design and construction for below-grade foundations and plazas, exterior wall opaque systems, fenestration storefront, and windows), and roofing and waterproofing.

Cheryl  Saldanha
Cheryl Saldanha | Senior Project Manger

Cheryl Saldanha leads SGH’s Building Science and Passive House practices and specializes in designing and evaluating building enclosures for new construction projects and existing building enclosure renovations. Her experience includes rainscreen facade, curtain wall, roofing, and waterproofing systems on a range of building types. Cheryl is adept at using multiple computer software packages to simulate building systems and details for thermal, condensation, and whole-building energy and daylighting analysis. Cheryl co-chairs the New York City Chapter of the International Building Performance Simulation Association and is a member of the NYC Commercial Energy Code Technical Advisory Committee.