You Can’t Meet Energy and Climate Goals Without Building Efficiency

June 17, 2019 - (4 min read)

This is guest post by Bill Fay, Coalition Director, Energy Efficient Codes Coalition

There is no national policy issue that is as largely in cities’ hands to develop as writing building energy codes. With little effort and no expenditure of public funds, cities, towns and villages can help write the nation’s building energy code. All cities have to do is cast their eligible votes during the International Code Council’s (ICC) two-week voting window this November.

With growing concern over climate change and severe weather incidents, this “secret” is slowly getting out.

Building energy use is one of the primary sources of carbon emissions in the United States. Efficiency improvements to buildings are the most cost effective and impactful measures a city can take to reduce energy consumption and to meet Paris Climate Accord targets. Building efficiency improvements quickly recoup incremental costs through reduced energy bills for owners and tenants, increased building quality and comfort and boosted resale value.

Every three years, stakeholders, including local governments and local officials, have the opportunity to vote on changes to the model codes, which serve as the basis for the building codes adopted and enforced by local and state governments. This time around, there is increased awareness of the opportunity cities have to write an update of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

The McKinsey Center for Business & Environment report, “Focused Acceleration: A Strategic Approach to Climate Action in Cities to 2030,” identified the optimization of building energy efficiency as the most significant and impactful step cities can take to meet Paris Accord emission targets. Yet the relatively flat gains of the last two codes are not enough to help local governments achieve their energy and climate goals.

Energy Efficient Codes Coalition Focused on Efficiency Gains

The year-long process to develop the 2021 IECC culminates with cities’ online votes this November. The Energy Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC) 2019 campaign is focused on boosting local government involvement in the 2021 IECC and on putting the model energy code in a strong position to win at least 10% efficiency gains for residential and commercial buildings.

In January, EECC introduced an array of pro-efficiency proposals that if incorporated into the 2021 IECC and adopted at the local and state level, they will reduce carbon emissions by 35 million metric tons nationwide by 2030. Additional proposals will also be up for consideration, which could increase carbon savings to 50 million metric tons and provide communities with guidance for net zero residential and commercial buildings.

Earlier this year, cities and states across the country signed up over 500 new Governmental Memberships by the voting eligibility deadline, the largest participation by governments ever in the code development process.

Last month, the ICC’s Committee Action Hearings in Albuquerque, New Mexico exceeded expectations for building efficiency. These “better than expected” results mean that winning many pro-efficiency proposals and defeating the rollbacks will only require simple majorities in online voting this November. 

What’s Ahead: Just Two Deadlines and a Few Small Steps for Cities

 What Local Leaders Can Do Now

  • Identify all existing ICC Governmental Memberships for your community
  • Consider a formal resolution that supports your city casting its maximum eligible votes in favor a 10% efficiency boost in the 2021 IECC
  • Convey your jurisdiction’s policy to each General Member

By September 24

  • Primary representatives must submit their roster of 4, 8 or 12 Governmental Member voting representatives to the ICC
  • Assign staff to organize a “voting party” or other activity to ensure votes get cast

November During ICC’s 2-Week Voting Window – Exact date is based on the end of the Public Comment Hearings, but it is currently scheduled November 13 – November 27. 

  • Cast your city’s maximum online votes!

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About the author: William Fay has led seven broad-based national issue campaigns that coordinate lobbying, media, communications, and grassroots advocacy.  A coalition builder, he organized and led the nation’s premier coalitions on 1990 Clean Air Act reauthorization, product liability reform, multi-year highway legislation, and President Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative.  He was named one of GreenBuilder® Media’s “2018 Eco-Leaders.”