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Energy Code – Restaurants & Daylighting Controls 

Posted by Brian Davis, PE, CEM on Sep 3, 2015 3:35:09 PM

How do you incorporate the mandatory daylight dimming requirements of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code for fine dining restaurants? 


Fine Dining restaurants are notable in the way that lighting is carefully controlled to obtain the desired atmosphere.   These restaurants require subtly different lighting levels throughout the day.  Programmed dimmers are used to provide a variety of soft lighting looks for meals.   The 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) requires daylighting zones for all commercial spaces, however, making ambiance difficult to control in fine restaurants.  

Lighting levels are usually lower in dining rooms compared to office or retail spaces, so these restaurants are using reduced energy for lighting compared to other occupancies.   In addition, restaurants may use blinds or shades to control glare, and achieve the ambiance that customers expect when dining.  The 2015 version of the IECC energy code recognizes restaurant lighting issues and provides these Group A-2 occupancies with an exemption from automatic daylight dimming requirements.   If you are working under the older 2012 IECC, consider requesting a code modification to allow the use of the newer 2015 energy code.   

Most building departments have a code modification process that permits the use of a newer code, allowing you to take advantage of this difference.  Prior approval of the authority having jurisdiction is required before proceeding with any alternate code, of course.

Daylighting is a great way to light dining areas if your restaurant concept uses a natural, bright look which is popular in the fast/casual sector.   If your concept is based on a more intimate setting, however, you might want to move up from 2012 to the latest 2015 energy code.