Identifying the Principles of a Code for Climate
On July 13, 2021, New Buildings Institute (NBI) and RMI convened stakeholders for a postmortem discussion of the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) code development process and the path forward for future code development cycles. The discussion was an opportunity for sharing of information and lessons, flagging priorities, and asking questions. This session elevated the following priorities as areas of focus for the initiative:
- Electrification (vehicle charging and building systems)
- Improvements to existing buildings (improving efficiency, distributed generation, electrification)
- Equity (energy burden, affordable housing)
- Cost evaluation
- State and local code development and adoption support
Priorities, Needs, and Key Criteria for Climate-Aligned Codes
This session was open to all stakeholders that had followed, participated in, or plan to adopt the 2021 IECC. Over 80 participants joined the discussion, with most coming from the government, nonprofit, and building design/construction sectors. Others include code development bodies, HVAC and lighting companies, program implementers and utilities. Close to half of participants indicated that they primarily work with cities and counties, about 20 percent indicated that they worked with states, and about 10 percent indicated they worked with code development bodies. Of note, many government representatives and private sector participants also serve on state and national code development bodies.
Robust participation from such a variety of stakeholders at the state and local level underscores the current focus on developing climate-aligned codes and highlights the need for tools and resources to help with code development, adoption, and implementation in these jurisdictions. It has become clear that there are wide-ranging needs across jurisdictions who may be adopting their next energy code, may be updating a code that is several cycles behind, or may be aiming to lead with a stretch code beyond the existing model codes. This session was designed to gather feedback to focus the efforts of the Codes for Climate initiative by understanding common priorities, needs, and existing efforts underway to ensure that our work is additive and filling the most essential gaps on the path to climate-aligned new construction for jurisdictions regardless of the current status of their energy codes.
Participants consistently highlighted key needs in relation to their work on energy codes, including:
- better understanding of how municipal decisionmakers will participate in the new standard development process at the IECC
- evaluation of appendices to the 2021 IECC and other climate-aligned stretch codes and overlays (such as NBI’s Building Decarbonization Code)
- options for local jurisdictions that are preempted from adopting more stringent codes by their state’s laws
In addition, electrification and decarbonization were elevated as the top priorities for future code development cycles, with electric vehicle integration, thermal/passive resilience, embodied carbon, and climate hazard resilience also flagged as important provisions to be included in the code.
Filling the Gaps
Based on what have learned through the session and follow-up information gathering, we know that the Codes for Climate stakeholder community primarily works with city, county and state governments, and that most of these jurisdictions struggle with outdated energy codes and the slow pace of new code adoption. They want to use the energy code as a tool to support their climate goals, but need climate-aligned code language, assistance with adoption, and support around enforcement. This underscores why we need to develop a climate-aligned code for jurisdictions and fully support adoption efforts – there limited opportunities to impact codes that will be in place by 2030.
The Codes for Climate team will ensure that the priorities and needs of these stakeholders are built into our work, and we will collaborate with efforts that are already underway to provide technical assistance and support across the range of circumstances that jurisdictions are in.
We will continue communicating with stakeholders through a monthly newsletter (sign up here), and we will host convenings during key decision points throughout the code development process. In addition:
- NBI is serving on 2024 IECC development committees (both residential and commercial) and will focus on developing and proposing climate aligned code language that reflects the priorities of Codes for Climate jurisdictions
- The team will keep interested parties up to date on key dates and action items for 2024 code development
- The team is currently engaged in multiple 2021 adoption efforts in various jurisdictions and will continue supporting those efforts
If your jurisdiction has a specific need, you work for an organization undertaking an aligned effort, or you have other questions about how to get involved, contact us.