In the economic stimulus package signed into law Feb. 17 by President Barack Obama, ASHRAE says that the energy-saving features of its Standard 90.1 are recognized through special funding.

According to the association, for states to receive additional funding from the $16.8 billion allotted to the Department of Energy and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, governors would be required to work toward state building energy codes at least as stringent as the 2007 version of Standard 90.1

They must also develop a plan for achieving 90 percent compliance with the code, including provisions for training and enforcement programs.

“For more than 30 years, Standard 90.1 has been one of the building industry’s most important benchmarks for energy efficiency,” said Bill Harrison, president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. “Its inclusion in the economic stimulus package demonstrates not only its importance in the building industry, but the importance and economic potential of saving energy and promoting energy-efficient technologies.”

Standard 90.1 provides minimum requirements for the energy-efficient design of U.S. buildings except for low-rise residential structures. Written during the 1970s energy crisis, ASHRAE Standard 90.1 first was published in 1975 as an effort to cut energy use. The 2004 version of the standard was referenced in the U.S. Energy Policy Act, which requires states to adopt commercial building codes that meet or exceed the standard’s requirements.

ASHRAE has set a goal of making the standard 30 percent more stringent by 2010.

The stimulus package, formally called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, focuses on improving the nation’s sputtering economy through tax credits and public-sector spending, with a heavy focus on infrastructure and energy. ASHRAE officials claim that several provisions could bring new opportunities to the building sector.

For example, tax credits available for the production of renewable energy are extended until at least 2012. Research expenses associated with renewable energy, conservation and reducing greenhouse gases could result in higher credits in 2009 and 2010.

The U.S. Department of Energy has also been authorized to provide grants up to 30 percent of the cost of installation of items such as fuel cells, solar, geothermal heat pumps, and combined heat and power systems.

Government branches that deal with energy issues will be receiving $21.4 billion for research, weatherization assistance, grants and other programs. The Labor Department is set to receive $750 million for job training, with significant focus on emerging industry sectors including energy efficiency and renewable energy

Federal agencies will be receiving funds for retrofitting and upgrading existing facilities to meet federal energy and water use requirements and alleviate any maintenance backlogs.