The 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), America’s national model energy code, was released in January of this year. Typically, state and local code adoptions lag several years behind the model code’s three-year upgrade cycle — so a new model code usually isn’t breaking news. But this time around, in response to federal stimulus-package incentives, some states have already upgraded to the new IECC. In Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Illinois, the 2009 version will take effect as soon as this October, with more states poised to follow suit.

The 2009 IECC is significantly more stringent than the 2006 version. It reduces a new home’s energy use 12 percent to 20 percent compared with levels set by the previous code. The gains come from upgrades to a range of building elements: increased wall, roof, and foundation insulation; higher-performance windows; airtightness testing for...

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