Reforming the Building Codes Development Process

Codes and Standards
Contact: Gary Ehrlich
(202) 266-8545

The most recent building codes cycle exposed an exploitable process in dire need of reform. NAHB immediately sprung into action and put its entire weight behind the fight for a better code development process.

NAHB Senior Officers created a task force in March 2020 to push for demonstrable change in the way building codes are developed.

While NAHB works closely with the ICC on code development, the unprecedented outcome from the 2021 code development process compelled NAHB leadership to take immediate action.

ICC has convened its own Board Committee on Long Term Code Development Process to address the concerns and recommendations of NAHB and others. NAHB expects significant change in the code development process going forward.

NAHB Recommendations for Code Development Reform

Current weaknesses in the codes development process were exploited by some participants during the 2019 ICC Group B code cycle for the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

The concerns identified below have been submitted to ICC’s Committee on Long Term Code Development Process. Many of the concerns have also been identified by the ICC Board and the Board is pursuing further review to determine if reforms should be implemented.

  • Modify ICC process to prevent twice-defeated proposals from continuing to the online ballot.
  • Change residential energy code process to a consensus standard with a balanced committee and builder voting representation with no online vote.
  • Change ICC bylaws to reduce the number of Governmental Members eligible to vote and allow only local code officials.
  • Publicly post validated Governmental Members and Voting Representatives on the ICC website in real time.
  • Change ICC process to increase requirements for documenting the cost impact of new building codes.
  • Increase the code development cycle from three years to 4-6 years.

Fighting Bad Codes through Appeal

NAHB submitted an appeal to the 2021 IECC results prompted by the irregular results from the Online Governmental Consensus Vote, which is the final vote in ICC’s code development process. Twenty proposals that were defeated at the Committee Action Hearings and the Public Comment Hearings made it to the online vote and achieved two-thirds of the votes to be successful. This had never happened.

NAHB ultimately was not successful in its appeal of the eligibility of voters who brought these proposals back to life and of the voting process that allowed it to happen. The ICC Board, however, did refer the issues NAHB raised in its appeal to the Committee on Long Term Code Development Process for further action.

NAHB won its appeal in two other broad areas:

Federal Preemption— New requirements in Proposal RE126 would likely have been determined to be in violation with the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act. Ultimately, the ICC Board of Directors agreed and set aside the results from the online vote and this provision will not appear in the 2021 IECC.

Scope and Intent — Two proposals were appealed because NAHB felt that they did not meet the scope and intent of the IECC. RE147 required gas appliances to be pre-wired for future electric conversion, and CE217 required parking spaces to be wired with a 240V, 40A receptacle for charging of electric vehicles. The ICC Board of Directors agreed that these proposals did not meet the scope and intent of the IECC and set aside the results of the proposals which will not appear in the 2021 IECC.

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Codes Development Process NAHB is heavily involved in the codes development process to ensure builders’ voices are heard.