What is code development?

Code development is the process of updating energy codes to match advances in building science and construction practices. In the United States, this process happens on a three-year cycle. As soon as an energy code is published, development begins for the next code cycle. Development processes vary from code to code, including when hearings are held, who can participate, and how often.

Who can submit a code change proposal?

Any interested person or group may submit a code change proposal to be considered during the ICC or ASHRAE code development process. Each process offers industry representatives, environmental advocacy groups, and the building and design communities the chance to submit their ideas for improving the existing code.

It is critical that building energy code provisions are consistent and that conflicts between codes are minimal. The ICC’s and ASHRAE’s iterative code development process minimizes potential conflicts by giving stakeholders an opportunity to evaluate new technologies, explore construction challenges, and engage in an open discussion—both during code hearings and the intervening months.

The IECC development process

Following the IECC proposal submission and processing, each proposal is publicly reviewed and discussed during public hearings. The overall code development process follows a public hearing format outlined in Robert’s Rules of Order. After the public hearing, a summary report is made available, at which point participants submit their comments identifying issues that were addressed in the code change proposal or committee action. Next, the ICC and public stakeholders convene one last time for the Final Action Hearings to review the actions made during the first hearing and the subsequent public comments before taking the final vote.

It is important to note that the ICC leaves the final determination of code provisions in the hands of public safety officials who, with no vested financial interest, can legitimately represent the public interest. All codes are updated every 18 months using this process, and new editions are published every three years.

In 2011, ICC revised Council Policy #31 to expand its Code Action Committee (CAC) structure to establish a comprehensive approach to single-discipline commentary regarding changes to the I-Codes. The ICC Board expects this change to increase the quality of code change proposals, resulting in a more comprehensive approach to improving a code. CAC’s will deal with complex, technical issues ahead of the code development process to identify emerging issues or draft proposed code changes of importance to the ICC Membership.

See the flowchart on this page (adapted from ICC) for a visualization of the ICC code development process.


Previously, participating in Committee Action Hearings or Public Comment Hearings meant expensive travel for up to a week each time; a privilege usually reserved for major jurisdictions with the budget to allow that. cdpACCESS will completely democratize the model code development process. Eliminating the time-intensive and expensive barriers to participation means a code official in Atlanta and a code official in Peoria will have the same influence over the development of the model code.

ICC has developed great resources explaining the cdpACCESS process with can be found through their cdpACCESS portal, including:

  • NEW – Instructions for Group A: PDF
  • cdpACESSS Presentation from Ft. Lauderdale: PPT
  • Easy Steps to Follow: Assembly Motion Voting: PDF
  • cdpACCESS Q&A: Q&A
  • cdpACCESS Presentation: PPT
  • Sample Hearing Testimony (GG155-14): Video

Improving Efficiency in the 2018 IECC through Online Voting with cdpACCESS from ICLEI USA.

The ASHRAE Standard 90.1 development process

ASHRAE’s revision process for Standard 90.1 is different from the ICC’s method. Like the IECC revision, the process is an open forum, but it is among working committees made up of a diverse set of relevant stakeholders. The committee then opens revision proposals for public comment. Once the committee reaches a majority consensus, it submits the proposals to the ASHRAE Board for approval. ASHRAE revises Standard 90.1 on a three-year cycle but accepts proposals at any time.


Development Resources

This page is currently under construction. For a comprehensive list of BCAP’s code development resources, please click here.

Read news articles on code development here.