Consensus inconveniences irk climate crowd

Increasing awareness of residential and commercial buildings’ contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions levels, mainly through electricity or direct fossil fuel consumption, is leading to more scrutiny of wall and roof system energy efficiency. The International Code Council Board of Directors has responded with “Leading the Way to Energy Efficiency: A Path Forward on Energy and Sustainability to Confront a Changing Climate,” a framework guiding International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) updates.

Baseline home and building enclosure performance requirements will be strengthened in conjunction with the 2024 IECC and subsequent editions based on a balancing test supported by energy efficiency advocates and the building industry and passed by both houses of Congress. State, city or other governing bodies’ adoption of the code will impact wall and roof design and material composition, especially as they drive energy efficiency mandates or goals. Enclosures’ ability to contribute to lower fuel and electricity consumption for home or building heating and cooling will be increasingly important as the “Leading the Way” framework reshapes performance targets.

Mindful of the growing impact the IECC might have in broad climate change response strategies, the Council is changing the process for evolving the document. “The International Code Council is accredited by the American National Standards Institute as a standards developing organization that adheres to ANSI’s Essential Requirements for openness, balance, consensus and due process,” officials note. Against that backdrop, they issued a call for Residential Energy Code Consensus Committee and Commercial Energy Code Consensus Committee candidates to review this month. ICC Directors envision up to 30 members for each committee selected from stakeholder groups, including builders, consumers, government regulators, insurance carriers, manufacturers or suppliers, standards promulgators, testing laboratories and utilities. Government regulators will chair the two committees and represent a third of the overall seats on each, joining a diverse group in which stakeholder category representation is capped at three members.

“Committee membership will represent a diversity of climate zones, organization sizes, businesses, and jurisdictions, and a range of experience in building types and energy efficiency strategies,” ICC notes. Committees will be specifically tasked with reviewing and evaluating public input in accordance with Code Council Consensus Procedures; building consensus to incorporate input that advances the new IECC scope, intent and principles; ensuring any interested public party has the opportunity to propose or comment on IECC changes; and, considering the market-readiness of technologies to be incorporated into the code.

“As we build out the IECC Development Committees, we are looking for professionals who are fully committed to the vision and work necessary to help communities and the building sector meet energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction goals,” affirms ICC Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims.

The push for IECC evolution consistent with the ANSI philosophy is not universally embraced. “Changes to the code’s intent fundamentally stall progress on advancing efficiency and building decarbonization and fail to meet the need of the moment as the impacts from climate change bear down,” contends New Buildings Institute Director of Codes Kim Cheslak. “In addition to reducing governmental member involvement, the changes will ensure that measures directly targeting GHG emissions and the achievement of zero energy buildings in the IECC will only be voluntary.”

If “voluntary” sounds familiar, consider the underlying premise of all ICC documents, which federal, state or local governing bodies are free to adopt or ignore. Voluntary also characterizes the terms for GHG emissions reduction commitments for signatories of the Paris Accord, source of the most widely recognized climate benchmarks. The NBI, American Institute of Architects and other “Leading the Way” skeptics should consider the ICC position on ANSI protocol for standards development behind IECC and companion codes. What other universally recognized documents or guidelines prepared by consensus methods (ASTM International standards, U.S. Green Building Council LEED ratings, etc.) could be fair game?