The 2015 International Energy Conservation Code: Will it be weaker or stronger than the 2012 IECC?

The battle for better building codes continues this fall, when government members of the International Code Council (ICC) meet in Atlantic City, to complete the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

Because commercial and residential buildings use over 40 percent of America’s energy, 54 percent of its natural gas and 71 percent of its electricity, the votes cast in Atlantic City this October could be the most important energy and environmental policy votes cast in 2013.

The Campaign Continues

The broad-based EECC – housed at the Alliance and comprised of energy efficiency advocates from government, regional energy efficiency alliances, environmental groups, utilities, low income housing advocates, businesses and others – has ramped up its integrated, national advocacy campaign to win the best outcome possible for America’s model energy code.

Central to the EECC effort is an outreach campaign to the government members eligible to send voting delegates to Atlantic City, NJ this October.  The EECC will be urging support for preserving – and building upon – the 30% gains achieved by 2012 IECC. EECC has proposed a unique approach – called “Builder Flex Beyond the 2012” that allows builders to select from a panoply of options to achieve a 5% boost in efficiency after they’ve met the efficiency levels of the 2012 IECC.

Efficiency opponents are powerful, well placed and well financed.  By convincing the International Code Council to “stack” the Residential Energy Committee giving the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) – an energy code opponent – four seats out of 11 voting members.  NAHB’s representation changed the outcome of committee recommendations for the worse on 24 proposals, including one that could undo much of 2012’s 30% efficiency gain by reinstating mechanical equipment trade-offs that were eliminated in the 2009 IECC and confirmed in the 2012 IECC.

Of three possible outcomes of these hearings, one would continue and one would maintain the historic efficiency gains of the 2012 IECC, while the third outcome would result in the first IECC in history (the 2015) that would be weaker than its predecessor, the 2012 IECC.

Great: Adoption of “Builder Flex Beyond the 2012” & other proposals that boost the efficiency of new & renovated homes/commercial buildings, as well as defeat of proposals that “rollback” efficiency gains.

The best outcome would be for two-thirds of voting delegates to support “Builder Flex Beyond the 2012” and other proposals that could boost the efficiency of the 2015 IECC to 35 percent over the 2006 IECC baseline for residential construction and the 30 percent gain in the IECC’s commercial chapter.

Good: Majority support for pro-energy efficiency slate and opposition to rollback proposals

The next best outcome would be for a simple majority of voting delegates to support the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition’s (EECC’s) pro energy efficiency slate and reject all backsliding proposals. That would at least retain the historic gains achieved by the 2012 IECC for both residential and commercial construction.

Bad: Insufficient Support for Energy Efficiency

The worst possible outcome would be if less than a majority support energy efficiency, particularly if they vote to reinstate the mechanical equipment trade-off.  If this happens, ICC Governmental Members will incorporate a builder loophole that will make the new 2015 IECC weaker than both the 2012 IECC and the 2009 IECC for residential construction.