The International Code Council is violating its own policies in service of special interests that want to remove key energy efficiency and decarbonization measures from a pending model energy code. ACEEE and allies are calling for an urgent remedy.
Thanks to local governments’ strong support for energy efficiency and decarbonization, the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) finally made significant strides to advance energy efficiency in new buildings in what had become a largely stagnant process run by the International Code Council (ICC). But the 2021 IECC could have gone even further if not for an ICC appeals process that stripped electrification-ready measures from the code.
After the upheaval caused by overturning the local governments’ votes for the 2021 IECC, the ICC established a new consensus standard development process for the 2024 IECC that it claimed would lead the way on confronting climate change, but that limited the role of sustainability- and civic-minded state and local officials and shifted the balance toward business interests, such as trade groups for gas utilities, heating and cooling equipment manufacturers, and developers of homes and apartment buildings.
Despite our reservations about the new process, ACEEE participated as a voting member of the 2024 IECC Residential and Commercial Consensus Committees; we worked with longstanding allies and through new partnerships to advance commonsense energy performance requirements for new homes and buildings. While energy costs for families and businesses could almost certainly have been reduced much further under the old process—and the 2024 IECC falls far short of the path needed to tackle the climate crisis—we accepted the result of the process: approval of the draft 2024 IECC by a two-thirds supermajority vote of both the Residential and Commercial Consensus Committees.
Some industry groups, however, are now making a last-ditch effort to undo code changes that would benefit the public but hurt their bottom line. They are asking ICC to remove provisions that would ensure new buildings are wired for EV charging, include energy-efficient heating systems, ready homes for the future installation of solar panels, and provide the electrical outlet needed for homeowners to install a heat pump water heater. These same groups have no concern with weakened efficiency requirements that were part of a compromise that added the decarbonization measures. Disappointingly, they have found a powerful ally: the ICC itself.
The ICC breaks its own rules, and special interests benefit
All codes and standards need to have an appeals process. The ICC has a clear policy that governs IECC appeals, including limiting appeals to “process and procedure” questions. While we were frustrated by the ICC’s lack of transparency and the need for improvements throughout the IECC process, we knew that the appeals policy did not allow for the additional substantive improvements we wanted to see in the IECC. However, several industry organizations submitted appeals with complaints extending far beyond “process and procedure,” looking for resolution on technical matters they have opposed for years but that more than two-thirds of the Consensus Committees’ members determined needed to be in the IECC. Even where their appeals touch on process, the industry groups’ true goals are clear: several appeals assert deep problems that permeated the entire process, yet their proposed resolution is to strip only a handful of provisions they oppose.
Unfortunately, the ICC has violated several of its own policies to shepherd these unfounded appeals forward. And it has severely limited the ability of anyone else to respond, including cutting out the very Consensus Committee members who volunteered thousands of hours for the ICC over the past two years. ACEEE and other supporters of energy efficiency and decarbonization today sent a letter to ICC CEO Dominic Sims calling on him to cancel the upcoming Appeals Board hearings so that the ICC can work to bring the appeals process in line with its policies due to four clear violations:
- Violation of longstanding ICC policy of a 30-day appeal window, reaffirmed by the ICC’s Board of Directors in October, by unilaterally extending the appeals deadline to 60 days to accommodate business interests.
- Violation of ICC policy requiring the CEO to submit appeals to the Consensus Committees with 30 days to review before they are submitted to the Appeals Board.
- Violation of ICC policy requiring appeals regarding staff actions to be received within 30 days of the staff action and requiring the CEO to submit these appeals to the Codes and Standards Council with 30 days to review before submitting to the Appeals Board.
- Violation of ICC policy limiting review by the Appeals Board to matters of process and procedure.
The ICC’s violation of its own rules heavily tilted the appeals process toward a handful of special interests, providing 60 days for appeal submission, no opportunity for committee member review, and less than two weeks for anyone to prepare written responses to the appeals.
Efficiency and decarbonization improvements—and the legitimacy of the IECC—are at stake
Hard-fought gains of the 2024 IECC are in jeopardy. ACEEE addresses these appeals head on in written comments we submit today, and we will oppose them at upcoming Appeals Board hearings. But we also call on the ICC to immediately cancel or postpone the ad hoc appeals process currently underway to come in line with its own policies and procedures.
We do not take this step lightly. We want the ICC to be partners in supporting energy efficiency and fighting climate change. We have great relationships with many ICC staff and members, work closely with ICC on other vital issues, and look forward to their contributions to the National Energy Codes Collaborative; their network of code officials is critical to ensuring new homes and buildings are safe and energy efficient. But we have worked within their 2024 IECC process for years and have sought an explanation for their recent actions for the past couple months, only to be ignored.
If the ICC continues on its current course, it will be difficult to justify volunteer participation in a 2027 IECC process that is subject to the whims of ICC executives and well-connected industries. An alternative to the IECC may soon be necessary.
Today is the deadline to register to attend and speak up at the 2024 IECC Appeals Board hearings.