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.
The model codes are typically updated every three years. When model code changes are proposed, NAHB analyzes the impact of every proposal 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 recently implemented a change to the ICC code development policy. Now all proposed changes to the I-Codes must also include cost impact information. If that information is not included, the proposed change will be rejected.
NAHB commended the ICC, noting “By acknowledging that costs are an important factor in determining the merit of code change proposals, this will make the building codes process more cost-effective and affordable. In turn, this will help keep housing costs down, enable builders to construct more energy-efficient homes and allow more young families to enter the new home buying market.”
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.
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.