Understanding the Legislative Process

The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is available for adoption and use by jurisdictions internationally. It is within a governmental jurisdiction and is intended to be accomplished through adoption by reference in accordance with proceedings establishing the jurisdiction’s laws. At the time of adoption, jurisdictions should insert the appropriate information in provisions requiring specific local information, such as the name of the adopting jurisdiction.

How States Adopt Energy Codes

  • Regulatory: Alaska (residential), Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington
  • Legislative: Alaska (commercial), Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee
  • Home Rule: Arizona, Colorado
  • Regulatory and Legislative: Alabama, District of Columbia, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin

See also: IECC Adoption Resources

Legislative or Regulatory Process

The most common of adoption methods is through the state legislature. Bills are introduced and passed through the appropriate committee. In some cases, these committees will make recommendations to the legislature; however, most states follow normal legislative adoption processes.

In a legislative process, passage of new code policy has to fit within certain timeframes and compete with other state priorities. It also requires a discussion among a large, diverse, and generally non-technical group.

Example of a model legislation: Arkansas Legislation Act 1494

The legislative process can also empower agencies of the executive branch of government to promulgate building energy codes. When adoption occurs through this process, states and local governments often appoint an advisory body comprised of affected industry representatives, including individuals from the design, construction, and enforcement communities. This group typically reviews model energy code requirements, and considers the impacts of its provisions. Final recommendations of the group then proceed through a public review process, and may eventually return to the legislature for confirmation prior to becoming law. This regulatory process is sometimes preferred by local stakeholders, as it can allow for increased consideration with respect to local preferences.

A regulatory process can be set up by legislators with the authority and framework to support a thorough, well-informed review and debate, ending in implementation of a new and potentially revised code. Establishing a Technical Codes and Standards board that consists of a variety of stakeholders can also build broad support for the energy code, minimizing enforcement problems.

Example of a model legislation: West Virginia Title 87

Automatic Code Adoption/Revision Cycle
Most states and municipalities periodically update their building energy codes, some more regularly than others. This process ensures that their code reflects changes in technology and design that offer increased energy efficiency. Adoption and revision of building energy codes can correspond with the publication of a new edition of a national energy standard or model energy code. This may occur if state regulation or legislation language refers to “the most recent edition.”

A state can also tie adoption or revision to the publication date of an energy standard or model energy code to ensure automatic updates by incorporating the following language:
“This regulation shall take effect one month from publication of the adopted model energy code.”

  • Massachusetts House Bill 3221 is an example of automatic code revision cycle.
  • Louisiana House Bill 743 is an example of automatic code revision cycle.
Home Rule States

A home rule state is one where codes are adopted and enforced at the local level. Some home rule states will have a mandate that jurisdictions can go above code but also have to meet a certain minimum code. In general terms, the ideal of home rule is defined as the ability of a local government to act and make policy in all areas that have not been designated to be of statewide interest through general law, state constitutional provisions, or initiatives and referenda.

States with strong home rule authority/tradition cite the following as reasons for rejecting statewide codes:

  • Localities should determine for themselves if energy codes fit their unique characteristics
  • Statewide codes require statewide funding/training/etc. (i.e. unfunded mandates won’t work)
  • Statewide codes may restrict the ability of progressive localities to go beyond the mandated codes

However, there are downsides to a lack of statewide energy codes. Codes in home rule states, or in states with recommended standards, are implemented at the discretion of local jurisdictions. This approach results in a state landscape with different requirements city to city, or county to county. Often there are locations with no energy requirements. The lack of a consistent minimum standard requires builders and engineers to put additional work into tracking requirements for each location and factoring that into their designs. It also means that homebuyers and building owners are not purchasing the same quality of buildings around the state, nor saving the same amounts on their energy bills. If there are no energy codes, good builders and engineers who build to a cost-effective off-the-shelf level of efficiency, are competing for buyers with those buildings where corners have been cut on energy to reduce cost – all in an environment where these costs are hidden from the buyer. A mandatory baseline assures that the playing field for builders and engineers is even.

Advanced Energy Code Policy

Read more about stretch and reach codes here.

Stretch Codes
In July 2009, Massachusetts became the first state to adopt an above-code appendix to its state code – the 115 AA ‘Stretch’ Energy Code. The ‘Stretch’ Code is an enhanced version of the 2009 IECC with greater emphasis on performance testing and prescriptive requirements. It was designed to be approximately 20 percent more efficient than the base energy code – the IECC 2009 for new construction, with less stringent requirements for residential renovations.

In 2015, Rhode Island’s governor issued an executive order directing the Office of Energy Resources to establish a “voluntary aspirational or stretch building code” based on the IgCC or equivalent by 2017.

Reach Codes
Oregon has established an optional reach code will encompass construction methods and technology designed to increase energy efficiency over the mandatory codes for builders that choose to incorporate them. The 2011 Oregon Residential Reach Code incorporates energy-related provisions of the 2012 International Green Construction Code (IgCC) Version 2.0 with significant Oregon amendments.

Other Resources:

Legislative Calendars

The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a service laying out all 50 states’ legislative calendars:
2017 State Legislative Session Calendar

Related pages

  • Connecting with Stakeholders

    Each state approaches the energy code adoption process differently. In most states, codes are adopted through the state congress and pass through both the house and senate sides. No matter who is making the decisions on energy codes, making your voice heard is invaluable to the adoption process.

  • Energy Code Reform

    Setting state-level expectations for improving efficiency can provide a common goal for a state’s government and code community to work toward and can ensure support for codes within state government as a valuable part of high-level strategy. We have categorized energy code policy actions into four different levels.

  • Energy Codes and ARRA

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) provided two opportunities for states to receive stimulus funds linked to building energy codes: Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants and State Energy Programs (SEPs).

  • Making the Case for Building Energy Codes

    Find sample support letters, sample press releases, outreach materials, and consumer resources here.

  • Public Buildings Policy

    This page depicts state-level policies for public buildings across the United States.

  • Where to Begin: Types of Energy Codes

    Selecting the most current national model energy code (the 2015 IECC or ASHRAE 90.1-2013) ensures that code reflects changes in technology and design that offer increased energy efficiency.