The International Code Council, a private consortium that controls building code regulations for most of the United States and Latin America, has voted to reduce the power of cities and local jurisdictions over building efficiency requirements. “The decision came more than a year after the construction and gas industry groups that wield heavy influence at the International Code Council objected to aggressive new energy codes for which government officials voted,” reports Alexander C. Kaufman in the Huffington Post.
The new system places building codes governing energy systems and insulation “under a separate ‘standards’ process that, despite soliciting input from local officials, will give industry more control over the outcome.” While the ICC promises that government officials will still have “the strongest voice on the committee,” city officials worry the move only helps private companies maximize profit and “warned that it could encourage governments to shift away from using the ICC’s code.” Organizations including the American Institute of Architects criticized the new plan as “a step backwards for climate action,” while industry groups “cheered” the announcement.
Local governments, many of which don’t have their own building code authority, have been signing on to ICC regulations as a way to move toward more efficient building codes. “Buildings use roughly 40% of all energy produced in the U.S. for heating, power and cooking appliances, and generate a proportional share of the country’s planet-heating gases.” City leaders and Biden administration officials worry the changes could “likely derail and slow” the progress made on energy efficiency in new buildings. “Kelly Speakes-Backman, the Energy Department’s acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, asked the code-making group to ‘not proceed with these proposed changes until these questions and concerns can be adequately addressed.'”