Codes

Virtually all residential construction must adhere to comprehensive building codes and standards governed by local and state laws. Because of the cost and complexity of developing and maintaining such codes, state and local governments typically adopt nationally recognized model codes, often amending them to reflect local construction practices, climate and geography. Most U.S. communities adopt the International Code Council’s I-Codes for this purpose.

The I-Codes address all aspects of single- and two-family as well as multifamily construction, including structural elements and the electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and energy conservation requirements.

The requirements established by national code bodies, the modifications made by state and local governments, and the standards set by national organizations that are used in developing the model codes can significantly affect the construction, configuration and cost of new residential buildings as well as remodeling or additions to existing ones.

The original purpose of codes was to protect public health and safety, but government agencies have increasingly turned to codes to implement other policies, such as energy efficiency, resilience, sustainability, and property protection. Worse yet, some agencies advocate for energy code changes benefiting specific product manufacturers and against providing code users options and flexibility.

Why It Matters

Building codes can have a profound impact on the comfort and safety of residents as well as the cost of construction and the cost of operating the home. NAHB can help its members work toward cost-effective and safe codes. Contact your staff liaison to learn more.

The model codes are typically updated every three years. When changes are proposed, NAHB analyzes their impact on new home construction and existing residential buildings. It also works to ensure that all proposals are evaluated objectively by the ICC and that any changes or additional code requirements that are adopted are necessary and cost-effective.

Through NAHB efforts, the International Code Council’s Board of Directors now requires cost impact information. If that information is not included, the proposed change will be rejected.

Association policy addresses a number of specific code-related concerns including cost effectiveness, affordability, safety, fire sprinklers, resiliency, hazard mitigation, performance-based design, voluntary energy and green programs, accessibility, stair geometry and other important factors. For the latest news on NAHB's actions in the codes and standards arena, read these NAHBNow blog posts.

Solutions

  • Enact legislation to prohibit federal agencies from advocating on behalf of certain products or technologies and require that proposed changes to codes and standards be posted publically and include supporting data, cost impacts and quantified payback periods.
  • Enact legislation to require the Department of Energy to incorporate a 10-year simple payback for all energy code proposals and codes to ensure home buyers can recover costs for energy efficiency requirements.