The International Code Council (ICC) released a new framework last week, changing the means by which it updates the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) from government consensus to an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-approved standards process. Adopted by ICC’s board and couched as a means for helping governments and building industry stakeholders to meet goals for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reductions, the new framework will “allow for more in-depth scientific and economic deliberations,” ICC officials said. The move has so far elicited mixed reactions from industry associations. Kathy Krafka Harkema, U.S. codes and regulatory affairs manager for the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance, explained how it would impact the glass industry.
“The ICC’s move to transition the IECC from a code development to a standards development process is designed to strengthen the potential for adoption and ultimate impact of the IECC. By positioning it as part of ICC’s new framework to address energy efficiency and sustainability, it’s another tool for jurisdictions to consider for adoption to achieve their local goals,” she said. “The new framework gives jurisdictions considering IECC code adoption options for ways to reduce energy use or greenhouse gas emissions through model code language, while considering ways to make buildings more energy efficient in their design and construction.”
“ICC’s new framework for addressing energy efficiency and sustainability will help provide options for jurisdictions interested in achieving net zero energy buildings by 2030. Plus, the formation of ICC’s new Energy and Carbon Advisory Council will provide a forum for people with those particular interests to help inform ICC’s future considerations,” added Krafka Harkema.
As leading factors for the new format, ICC officials point to growing concerns over climate change. “We have heard clearly feedback from the building safety community asking us to strengthen the IECC and create new resources to help communities address their climate goals,” said Dominic Sims, the council’s CEO.
Dubbed “Leading the Way to Energy Efficiency: A Path Forward on Energy and Sustainability,” the new framework was established by ICC’s peer-elected board of directors, including 18 government code officials, establishing an Energy and Carbon Advisory Council to advise ICC on which policies to integrate. Committee members will include governmental and industry leaders across nine special interest categories, officials said, but “Government officials will have the strongest voice on the committee, and the consensus process requires one third of the seats to be government regulators,” said Greg Wheeler, ICC president. Following increases in efficiency requirements of around 40% between 2006 and 2021 (an average of 8% per cycle), base requirements for 2021 are now 10% short of net-zero energy usage among residential buildings, ICC officials reported. Going forward, improvements will be implemented using a “balancing test proposed in bipartisan legislation that has cleared the U.S. House and Senate and has been supported by energy efficiency advocates and the building industry,” they added.
At the same time, “There are still many details that need to be worked out, including exactly what the structure of the new commercial and residential committees will be, what working groups will be formed, exactly how proposed amendments will be considered, etc., so it’s still too early to tell whether this move will be better in terms of ensuring requirements for windows, doors and skylights are reasonable, feasible and cost effective,” said Jeff Inks, vice president of advocacy for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association. “Ultimately we may be pleased with the move,” he added.
Meanwhile, officials for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) said more involvement by government eliminates “robust public input, transparency and governmental consensus voting by its membership for the energy code development process … despite strong opposition from AIA, ICC’s membership, industry organizations and members of congress.” AIA is labeling the move a “step backwards for climate action,” suggesting that the new framework, “appears to be in the interest of granting select special interest groups … with greater decision-making authority.” Among the groups cited by AIA officials was the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). NAHB chairperson Chuck Fowke said his organization sees the new framework as “an important change that we expect to result in a model energy code that meets the needs of consumers, builders, building officials and energy efficiency advocates.”
Going forward, numerous factors remain the same, ICC officials pointed out, including the fact that anyone can submit proposed changes, comment on proposed changes and participate in committee hearings. Regardless of the new framework, ultimately governments continue to have the final say on whether to adopt or amend model codes, ICC officials pointed out.