International Code Council rejects aggressive green energy home building code mandate

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An international group that develops building codes adopted by a wide swath of U.S. cities and counties abruptly pared back a plan to force new homes to be more climate-friendly.

The International Code Council (ICC) – a Washington, D.C.-based group that regularly issues more than a dozen codes regulating new construction and impacting tens of millions of people nationwide – recently announced that its board of directors ultimately rejected climate provisions that industry experts argued would lead to higher costs. By completing the 2024 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), it addressed criticisms that the original draft excessively prioritized climate initiatives at the expense of energy efficiency.

In its announcement, the organization said the 2024 IECC would still achieve energy efficiency gains of 7% in residential buildings and 10% for commercial construction, though jurisdictions would have the option to adopt more aggressive green measures. 

“The ICC Board of Directors made the right decision for the United States to be more energy efficient in removing these deeply problematic provisions from the code base,” Karen Harbert, the president and CEO of the American Gas Association (AGA), said in a statement.

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Under the International Code Council’s original proposal, new homes would need to be built with electrical infrastructure for home electric vehicle chargers, solar panel systems and all-electric appliances. (Getty Images)

“This is further confirmation of how natural gas and our delivery system are fundamental to protecting America’s energy security and achieving our environmental goals and economic prosperity.”

The AGA is the nation’s largest trade association representing natural gas service providers, along with other energy industry associations, housing groups and the ICC’s own northeast regional branch. It filed an appeal in early January challenging the original version of the 2024 energy conservation code. 

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The groups argued in separate filings that the ICC had violated due process requirements when developing its IECC and said the green provisions in the code would harm consumers and businesses alike. However, the ICC’s appeals board recommended earlier this month that those appeals be rejected, leaving the group’s board of directors with the final decision.

Among the provisions opposed, the draft IECC, which had been in development for years, would have required new one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses to install electrical infrastructure for home electric vehicle chargers. It also would have mandated that new homes are equipped with the electrical wiring needed for a solar panel system and all-electric appliances.

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The energy conservation code will impact jurisdictions across 48 states, which are home to 119 million Americans. (Dave Einsel/Getty Images)

According to the AGA, those measures and other provisions were largely included in the IECC as part of an omnibus package in September 2022 after rejection through the normal process. The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), an appliance manufacturer trade group that also appealed the draft IECC, had further warned that the proposed code could lead to legal challenges.

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“While AHRI and its member companies are committed to energy efficiency and indeed produce the most energy efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and water heating equipment in the world, if provisions in the IECC increase the likelihood of legal action because of preemption issues or reduce the likelihood that certain states and localities will adopt it, less overall energy will be saved,” said AHRI President and CEO Stephen Yurek.

Stovetop

A flame burns on a natural gas stove. Environmentalists have taken aim at gas-powered appliances, such as stovetops. (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle, File)

In addition to AGA and AHRI, the American Public Gas Association, the Building Owners and Managers Association, the National Multifamily Housing Council, and the ICC’s own Northeast regional branch also filed appeals.

Overall, jurisdictions across 48 states and representing more than 119 million Americans administer the IECC. ICC CEO Dominic Sims said late last year that the code is an essential tool for “achieving energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction goals.”

“The IECC, (like all the International Codes) is a model code, the adoption and amendment of which is at the option of state and local governments,” ICC Senior Vice President of Government Relations Gabe Maser told Fox News Digital in a statement. 

“This inherent flexibility, combined with the menu of choices the latest IECC provides, allows local governments the ability to determine the best ways to address the goals of their unique communities.”

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The Biden administration has separately announced that it would divert $1 billion in grants earmarked under the Inflation Reduction Act to help more jurisdictions implement the ICC’s IECC.

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