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Net Zero New Buildings


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Denver has a goal for all new buildings achieve net zero energy by 2035, as specified in the 80x50 Climate Action Plan. The City has six code cycles to get to net zero new construction, as illustrated in the graphs at the bottom of this page. In December 2018, shortly after the 80x50 plan was release, a special report from the climate scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told cities that we actually need to achieve Net Zero new construction by 2020 indicating that we need to move as quickly as we can to Net Zero new construction.  Read each drop down below for our plan for how to achieve Net Zero new construction.

Net Zero Building & Energy Resources

The City and County of Denver intends to adopt an updated Building and Fire Code in 2019, which will include the 2018 editions of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The updated base code will be the new minimum standard for all buildings within the City and County of Denver.  The code adoption process is as follows:

  • January through April 2019: Through a series of stakeholder input meetings, proposed amendments were developed that will take common sense, cost effective, first steps towards Net Zero energy new construction. New Buildings Institute (NBI) and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) were led the outreach and amendment development process.
  • May through August 2019: Once all proposed amendments have been collected from any valid proposers, they are compiled and presented to the IECC Code Committee for consideration.
  • September through October 2019: Once the final draft language for the base code has been created and vetted by the Committee, the proposed base code will be provided to City Council for adoption.

Denver intends to adopt a more ambitious voluntary “stretch code”, also known as the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), alongside the minimum (base) code. The new stretch code will be voluntary and strives to provide incentives for developers who are willing to assist Denver in reaching its climate goals, including net zero energy in new construction by 2035.

  • May through August 2019: A Committee shall be established to consider aspects of the IgCC that will assist the City in reaching its climate goals. These “above and beyond” base code considerations, or the stretch code as it will be commonly referred to, will be incentivized through a variety of means by the City and its partners in an effort to encourage developers to pursue more energy efficient and environmentally friendly construction practices than by what is mandated in the base code.
  • September through October 2019: Once final draft language for the stretch code has been created and vetted by the Committee, the proposed stretch code will be provided to City Council for adoption.
  • It is anticipated that the stretch code adopted during the 2019 process will become the base code during the next code adoption cycle.

Incentives will be key to driving stretch code adoption.  In the short term we hope to be able to offer a dedicated reviewer, coordinated review, and expedited review to stretch code projects.  Longer term, we are exploring if we might be able to offer greater incentives like density bonuses or property tax reductions.

  • The Department of Community Planning and Development (CPD) added an IECC code compliance specialist to their staff in 2019.
  • In fall and winter of 2019 the Institute for Market Transformation will complete a Code Compliance Study for Denver under the American Cities Climate Challenge.  The study will inform the future work of the IECC code compliance specialist.

  • In November of 2019, five departments within the City and County of Denver will participate in voting on the 2021 IECC at the national level to strengthen the national base code and help the whole market advance.

  • Afer the code creation, committee and adoption process in 2019, the City and County of Denver will work with the New Buildings Institute to develop a comprehensive Net Zero Energy Implementation Plan which will layout major milestones and required processes to be met in order to achieve net zero energy in new construction by 2035. Funding for the document creation is being provided by the American Cities Climate Challenge.

  • The Implementation Plan will be heavily based on Denver stakeholder input to ensure this plan is accessible and achievable for all building types and stakeholders.  The City and County of Denver is hosting three phases of Stakeholder Meetings to ensure this Implementation Plan provides specific and achievable pathways to net zero energy new construction.

o  Phase 1 Meetings: October 2019

o  Phase 2 Meetings: April 2020

o  Phase 3 Meetings: July 2020

  • The Implementation Plan will be published in September of 2020.  Please contact if you are interested in participating in these meetings or would like to be added to our email list Implementation Plan Updates.
  • Two charts below, for commercial and residential construction, help tell the story about the work required during the code adoption process in order to meet these climate goals. Using the Zero Energy Performance Index (zEPI) as an indication of how buildings are performing in relation to net zero energy goals, the charts visualize the major steps needed to achieve Denver’s vision during future code processes.


graph showing Denver's path to net zero enery for comercial properties

graph showing Denver's path to net zero enery for residential properties 


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