March 22, 2024 | Amy Boyce
Business man faces brick wall

On Wednesday, March 20, 2024, the International Code Council (ICC) Board of Directors made a decision that will hinder the progress of decarbonization in new buildings. The 2024 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) should have been determined by consensus committees in accordance with the ICC’s new energy code process. Instead, the ICC board chose to override  the recommendations of not just committee members, but also ICC Staff as well as the Appeals Board. This decision undermines already eroded trust in the ICC, and raises concern about the future of building energy codes.


Historically, the IECC was developed via a process in which government representatives voted to determine the final content. The 2021 IECC was 10% stronger than the previous version, in part because of record participation that cycle. However, after  the 2021 IECC Appeals process concluded, the ICC Board of Directors decided to upend the existing code development process and move to a standards process that relied on committees to make the final decision. This move was widely criticized, with approximately 75% of written comments and oral testimony opposing the change; nevertheless, the change was implemented. Despite their hesitations, individuals representing nine different interest categories, including homebuilders, utilities, code officials, and efficiency advocates, signed up to participate in the new process, starting in the fall of 2021.

A key milestone in the development of the 2024 Residential IECC occurred prior to the first public comment period. Initially, the new committee structure faced a stalemate. Many of the proposals that garnered the required 50% of approval at the subcommittee level could not achieve the ⅔ threshold required from the full committee. Rather than accept the stalemate and put out a draft with only minor updates, committee members worked together to form an omnibus compromise proposal that would be voted on as a package, with gains and concessions from each side. In fact, pro-decarbonization members decided to forego some stronger efficiency elements in order to include electrification measures. While the omnibus was not perfect, it did represent progress toward building decarbonization. It passed with over 90% approval from the full committee. During these negotiations, those participating were under the impression that all proposals under consideration were within the scope and intent of the IECC. 

The Appeals

After the completion of the final draft of the 2024 IECC, appeals were filed by the American Gas Association (AGA), American Public Gas Association (AGPA), Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), Building Owners and Managers (BOMA)/National Multifamily Housing Council (NAMH), and ICC Region VI. The appeals broadly fell into the categories of Scope and Intent, Consensus Building Approaches, Procedural Specific Issues, and Subject Specific Issues. While not limited to these topics, the elements of the code most directly targeted were those concerning electrification and grid-interconnectivity.

The appointed Appeals Board conducted hearings over three days in late February. ICC Staff conducted an analysis that was presented at these hearings, urging the Board to reject the appeals; written and verbal testimony was presented by committee members and the general public, representing both slides. The Appeals Board issued their report on March 4, recommending that the Board of Directors reject all appeals. The Board of Directors met on March 18 to make the final decision.

The Result

ICC’s Board of Directors ruled in favor of the appeals related to Scope and Intent, and resolved that the following contested measures be moved from the base code to an appendix:

  • Sections C406.1.1.1 and C502.3.7.1 (heat pump products)  
  • Sections C403.4.6, C404.10, C405.2.8, R403.5.4 and N1103.5.4 (demand response)  
  • Sections C405.14, R404.7, and N1104.7 (electric vehicle charging infrastructure)  
  • Section C405.16 (electrical energy storage system readiness)  
  • Sections R404.6 and N1104.6 (solar readiness)  
  • Sections R404.5 and N1104.5 (electric-readiness for water heaters, clothes dryers, and cooking appliances)

While moving items to an appendix does not fully remove them from the code, it significantly reduces their likelihood of being adopted. Additionally, the Board did not simply move some items to the Appendix; it went so far as to remove some of the proposed Appendices entirely. Citing concerns over preemption, the Board has further demoted Appendix CG (all-electric commercial) and Appendix RE (all-electric residential) to external resources, as well as portions of Appendix CD (prescriptive glide path to net zero). Appendix RG escaped their fate, and got off with just a stern warning regarding the limited compliance options for minimum efficiency equipment in specific climate zones. Overall, progress was essentially halted for measures that addressed electrification in any form. 

Why it Matters

There are two big takeaways from this situation.

We must electrify

We cannot decarbonize the built environment relying on energy efficiency alone. While efficiency is critical, we also need to stop using fossil fuels, which means both shifting to renewable sources to produce electricity, and shifting our appliances to run on electricity instead of methane gas. Obviously, those associated with the fossil fuel industry don’t want to see this happen, but delaying the transition will be more costly down the line, both for building owners facing major retrofit work, and for governments and residents footing the bill for stranded assets. The provisions removed from the IECC were not revolutionary. They did not prevent the installation of gas appliances and infrastructure. They didn’t even address space heating. They simply provided a choice to owners who might one day want to switch off of fossil fuels (for some of their appliances)—or to install onsite renewables, or plug in their car at home—to do so without prohibitive cost and disruption. The gas industry has argued that these measures take away choice and that they were left out of the process,but that’s simply untrue. These code provisions provide greater consumer choice and the industry representatives were merely outvoted. 

The rules need to apply to everyone

The ICC has clearly favored industry in its appeals process, jeopardizing the value of participating in the development process. If the ICC was clear about the scope of the code —which they should have been since this isn’t the first time this happened—then the voting would have gone very differently. If you spent years working towards a solution, even accepting compromise in the name of progress, only to have your work gutted at the end, would you want to participate in the process again? The IECC relies on volunteers for its creation, and the Board just told half of them that their contributions don’t matter, even though they came back after the process was upended. All of this adds up to a serious credibility issue for ICC, and the need to rethink the process for building energy code development.

Moving Forward

Energy codes might seem like an obscure topic, but they matter, not just for the climate, but for the well-being of the people who live and work in these homes and buildings. On average, buildings last for decades, and the best time to make a building efficient is at the time of construction. Let’s not saddle ourselves with a large and expensive future problem. We need to act now to make energy more available and affordable for everyone down the line. If the ICC wants to continue being the model code, they need to do better.

Program Area(s):


Meet the Author

Senior Director, Building and Energy Performance

Want to get regular updates from IMT?