ICC In Hot Seat with House Energy and Commerce Committee

Is this the first step toward turning over building code development to a more objective group?

For more than a decade advocates of energy efficiency—as well as stakeholders responsible for promoting the public good over profit-motivated special interests in the homebuilding industry—have reported a foul odor emanating from the ICC code development process.

Long-held concerns over secret deals and unfair arrangements between the ICC and industry trade organizations, specifically the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), but perhaps others as well, may finally see the daylight critics have pushed for and reveal the core source of the stench.

building codes featuredThis was shared in an opinion piece “What Will Happen To Your Next Home If Builders Get Their Way?” by Justin Gillis of the New York Times:

In a letter on Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee demanded information from the council, including a copy of the secret agreement with the home builders.

That is good news. If the council persists in undermining the public interest, Congress or a coalition of states could potentially turn the job of drawing up building codes over to a new, more objective group. And lawmakers ought to adopt a national policy to govern this situation, mandating steady improvement in the energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions of new buildings.

With the climate crisis worsening by the year, America can no longer indulge the stalling tactics of the home builders.

The letter referenced above details the complaint. In short, the committee is investigating whether the undisclosed written agreement with the NAHB gives builders disproportionate control over the code development process.

Related: Bill Fay breaks the ICC-Congress situation down in a webinar. Click here to watch!

“Through this agreement, NAHB, an industry trade group representing companies whose work is regulated by the codes, has reportedly blocked changes in building codes intended to make new homes more energy-efficient and resilient to the impacts of a changing climate,” committee leaders wrote to ICC CEO Dominic Sims. “This is particularly concerning because residential efficiency codes play a key role in reducing emissions, with homes reportedly accounting for almost one-fifth of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions nationwide in 2018.”

The IECC is an important element of national energy policy and a major tool in the nation’s efforts to address climate change. These building codes are incorporated, not only into the laws or regulations of many state and local governments, but also into many federal policies. 

“Recently, ICC announced that it is considering changing the process for developing the IECC in ways that could further increase NAHB’s influence,” the committee continued.  “Among the changes being considered is replacing the current government consensus process for developing energy codes with the ICC process for developing energy standards. This has raised concerns among stakeholders that state and local officials could be effectively eliminated from providing meaningful input on future revisions to energy building codes.”

The Committee leaders are requesting relevant documents and answers to a series of questions from ICC, including:

  • Why the decision was made to guarantee seats to NAHB representatives on ICC committees;
  • An explanation of any privileges or authorities currently granted to any organizations or stakeholders with respect to ICC committee membership;
  • Copies of any written materials, including any written agreement or memorandum of understanding between ICC and NAHB;
  • Whether ICC entered into an agreement with any other organization that guarantees committee representation or otherwise affects the IECC development process;
  • Whether ICC conducted any analysis of how changes to committee composition – including increasing or decreasing industry representation – may impact the development of building codes designed to maximize energy efficiency and achieve emissions reductions;
  • An explanation of the rationale for proposed changes to the code development and voting processes.

The Committee leaders requested a response by February 2.

Ron Jones, Co-Founder and President of Green Builder Media, is recognized as one of the fathers of the green building movement.

Image by Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay