A March 3, 2021 vote by the International Code Council's (ICC) Board of Directors eliminated the governmental member consensus vote - the final phase of the triannual code update process – for future versions of the International Energy Conservation Code. Instead, the ICC will utilize the ANSI standard development process to promulgate the 2024 IECC.
ICC maintains that the IECC will continue to be a code even though it will be developed using the ANSI standard protocol. While the ICC has said that the new process will ensure a zero energy code path and that efficiency rollbacks will not be permitted, there is still significant cause for concern. These concerns – and the ICC's motivations behind this change – have been extensively written about in blogs over the past few weeks (see a collection below).
The ICC made the code development process change despite hundreds of individuals and organizations, 30 states, and 60 cities and towns directly submitting comments and testifying at a hearing regarding the code development methodology change - the majority, over 75 percent, expressed their opposition. The National League of Cities, U.S. Council of Mayors, National Association of State Energy Officials, and Urban Sustainability Director's Network all voiced opposition on behalf of the thousands of cities, states, and local governments that they represent. Additionally, the American Institute of Architects, ACEEE, ASHRAE, NRDC, and others expressed opposition to the ANSI code development process change.
A Historic Code
The 2021 IECC is historic and represents the most significant increase in energy efficiency in the past three code cycles, in part due to the affirmation of governmental voting members. The governmental code development process was not perfect. But ultimately, it was democratic and transparent. As a result of the ICC Board vote, thousands of ICC Governmental members responsible for the adoption, enforcement, and compliance of the IECC have been disenfranchised.
The governmental code adoption process (the former IECC development process) assured public comment on code change proposals both in writing and during a public comment hearing. Once proposals were finalized, ICC governmental members (codes officials, state and municipal officials) were able to cast a vote on each proposal to accept or deny inclusion into the code. The ANSI process cuts out public comment hearings and membership vote. In this new process, the members – those who adopt and enforce the code across the country – will be represented by less than a dozen governmental members on the ANSI code committee.
An ANSI Experience
I have served on both governmental census committees (IGCC 2012 and 2015) and ANSI development process committees (ASHRAE 189.1-2014, ICC-700 2012 and 2015). My ANSI experience is that the process comes down to who is appointed to the committee and sub-committees, their commitment to energy efficiency, and their consistent participation in meetings and critical votes. Major code provisions or efficiency gains can hinge on the scheduling of ANSI committee meetings and members' attendance rather than weeks of open voting provided to ICC membership through CDPAccess, ICC’s online voting system.
A Look at the New Process
An ICC press release concerning the new IECC ANSI development process states, "The IECC will be developed under a revised scope and be part of a portfolio of greenhouse gas reduction solutions that could address electric vehicles, electrification and decarbonization, integration of renewable energy and energy storage, existing buildings performance standards and more." The word "could" is not reassuring; in fact, it’s a bit ironic considering ICC removed these same proposals from the 2021 IECC after voting members approved their inclusion.
The release goes on to state that the IECC will use a "tiered approach…[offering] adopting jurisdictions a menu of options, from a set of minimum requirements to pathways to net-zero energy and additional greenhouse gas reduction policies." A more advantageous objective should be a nationally-consistent code that uniformly pushes the country towards zero energy buildings. A code that ensures building electrification and decarbonization is the foundation of buildings design, construction, and operation.
As the ICC issues a call for the IECC development committee, we are left to ponder unknowns and questions. How strong is ICC’s commitment to energy efficiency? Are home builder interests and those of energy advocates placed on equal footing by the ANSI process?
Adoption of the 2021 IECC should be energy advocates priority goal. The 2021 can serve as the springboard to zero energy codes. Some states will see this change in the code development process as an opportunity to accelerate plans to adopt zero energy codes. There is already a lot happening.
I believe we will see states adopt the 2021 IECC and then move on to create zero energy codes or partner with other states to adopt regional zero energy base codes and forego further IECC adoptions. California is a model for this approach. Washington D.C. has Appendix Z, a zero-energy appendix that will become the base code in two more code cycles. Massachusetts recently passed legislation to provide municipalities with an opt-in zero energy code. Vermont and New York are well on the path to zero energy base codes.
Perhaps the Biden Administration will take an active role and have U.S. DOE promulgate a national roadmap towards zero energy buildings and a national zero energy code for new and existing buildings.
Applications to the Residential Energy Code Consensus Committee or Commercial Energy Code Consensus Committee are due April 23, 2021. See www.iccsafe.org/energy.
Institute for Market Transformation: ICC Eliminates Governmental Voting in Model Energy Code
The American Institute of Architects: AIA Responds to ICC Decision Jeopardizing Climate Action
National Resources Defense Council: Changes to Energy Code Process Strip Power from Local Voters
New Buildings Institute: New ICC Framework Sidelines Local Government Participation in Energy Code Development
Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP): ICC's Energy Code - Or Should I Say "Standard" - Is Moving to Zero
Rocky Mountain Institute: International Code Council Votes to Restrict City Involvement in New Building Codes
Rocky Mountain Institute: New Process for Setting Model Buildings Codes Raises Concerns
International Code Council (ICC) AnnouncementsECC: 2024 and Beyond
National Association of Home Builders (NAHB): NAHB Chairman's Letter - Finding Common Ground
Energy News Network: Cities, States Would Lose Voice on Model Energy Code Updates Under Proposal
Green Builder: ICC in Hot Seat with House Energy and Commerce Committee
Green Builder Media: Biden Administration Looks Into ICC-NAHB Voting Proposal