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.

“We recognize the concerns that have been raised with updating the IECC and Chapter 11 of the [International Residential Code] under ICC’s governmental process and we recognize the merits of allowing for more timely consideration and in-depth investigation of energy improvements that would be afforded under ICC’s standards process,” said Jeff Inks, vice president of advocacy for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association.

“There are definitely pro’s and con’s to consider,” Inks added. “However, we were not advocating for this move and we did weigh in with the ICC board in early January stating our concern that a decision to move updating of the IECC to ICC’s standards process without mapping the process in greater detail would be premature.”

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,” Inks said.

“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. But “One thing is certain however, participation will be more time consuming for all stakeholders,” Inks suggested.

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.

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