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There is mounting evidence of the negative impact of fossil fuels on both the climate and human health. To mitigate these impacts in buildings, we need energy-efficient and electric ready measures to conserve energy, reduce emissions, and create healthier living environments. The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) has long served as a cornerstone for promoting building practices that make buildings more energy-efficient, resilient, and comfortable.  

ICC’s Recent Decision on the 2024 IECC  

Recently, the International Code Council (ICC) made a significant decision regarding the 2024 IECC by removing critical building emission reduction provisions from the main body of the code and moving them to optional appendices.  

The impacted provisions included mandates for infrastructure such as heat pump products (Sections C406.1.1.1 and C502.3.7.1), demand responsive controls for electric heating and cooling systems, water heating systems and lighting  (Sections C403.4.6, C404.10, C405.2.8, R403.5.4, and N1103.5.4), electric vehicle charging infrastructure (Sections C405.14, R404.7, and N1104.7), electrical energy storage system readiness (Section C405.16), solar readiness (Sections R404.6 and N1104.6), and electric readiness (Sections R404.5 and N1104.5).  

This move has sparked substantial backlash about the future direction of energy efficiency and electrification standards, underscoring both challenges and opportunities for states to take proactive steps and display leadership in decarbonizing the building sector. Others have documented the significant disappointment with these decisions and emphasized the loss of valuable tradeoffs that were present in earlier versions but won’t be included in the final version. Here we focus on the path forward and the hard work that remains to move the market for high-efficiency and electric ready new buildings.

Embrace 2024 Optional Appendices

The optional appendices of the 2024 IECC offer a nationally vetted model code language for integrating decarbonization technologies into new building design and construction. From ensuring homes are electric-ready to incorporating electric vehicle (EV) chargers, heat pumps, and energy storage, these provisions pave the way for a transition towards all-electric alternatives to fossil-fuel powered cars and appliances. By mandating electrical wiring capable of supporting these technologies in new homes and multifamily buildings, states can reduce reliance on fossil fuels and promote healthy homes.  

States that have already adopted the 2021 IECC or have committed to adopting more stringent energy efficiency and decarbonization building codes are well-positioned to lead the way toward more energy-efficient and resilient new constructions. By embracing the optional appendices of the 2024 IECC, states can showcase their unwavering commitment to reducing carbon emissions in the building sector.    

Buildings typically have a lifespan of several decades, so it is most beneficial to prepare them for electrification and optimize their energy efficiency during the construction process. Without including these provisions in energy codes, states and jurisdictions will force owners of newly-built homes to incur more retrofit costs to electrify, as elaborated in a technical brief by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Retrofit costs present a barrier to households and property owners seeking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. Electric-ready homes should not be a luxury that only some homebuyers can afford. Building energy codes should ensure that everyone can access new homes that are resilient, healthy, and not dependent solely on fossil fuels.  

Going Above Minimum Requirements

States can consider incorporating these provisions into their base or stretch codes. Utilizing these provisions for stretch codes will enable local jurisdictions to go beyond minimum code requirements and adopt more ambitious standards for energy efficiency and decarbonization in new construction. Simultaneously, states can enhance compliance measures to ensure that adopted codes and standards are effectively implemented and enforced. By leveraging all tools in the toolkit – including adopting strong building energy codes, stretch codes, reinforcement of code compliance and enforcement, and encouraging beyond-code programs for new construction, such as incentives offered for meeting Energy Star specifications and other funding programs – states can enable more energy efficient, resilient, and safe new buildings.

States Taking the Lead 

The decision to move these provisions to appendices underscores the importance of proactive action at the state and local levels. States in the NEEP region, such as New York and Rhode Island, which have already committed to adopting the 2024 IECC, as well as states like New Jersey and Connecticut, which are working on their next code cycles, have a prime opportunity to demonstrate leadership. As other states reach their subsequent code cycle, we encourage them to adopt the optional 2024 IECC appendices as part of their base or stretch codes. It will take collaborative efforts to build widespread support, yet it is crucial to take decisive measures to ensure that we reduce emissions in the building sector, create healthy homes and living environments, and make electric-ready homes more affordable and accessible to everyone.  

As we look to the future, it is critical that states and jurisdictions seize this opportunity to lead by example. By adopting the optional appendices of the 2024 IECC in base or stretch codes, improving compliance and enforcement of energy codes and promoting new construction programs states can demonstrate their commitment to decarbonization, resilience, and equity. As always, NEEP stands ready to provide support in the process.  

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