The International Code Council (ICC) recently published Decarbonizing the Built Environment: Solutions from the International Code Council, a report calling for expanded activities that support a coordinated approach to reducing energy and greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the building environment. The solutions are intended to help builders, manufacturers and governments achieve their decarbonization efforts.
Recognizing the significant impact of buildings on the environment, ICC is undertaking an internal roadmap effort drawing on its Energy and Carbon Advisory Board and the soon to be ad hoc Decarbonization Committee. formed, to make recommendations to the organization. This mapping is part of the approach outlined by its energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction benchmark, Leading the Way in Energy Efficiency: A Way Forward in Energy and Sustainability to Address Climate Change.
“The Code Council is ready to provide the tools communities need to achieve their climate-related goals. Collaboration is key to supporting consistency and limiting confusion as the industry navigates new priorities. Our collaboration with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) on a standard to support carbon assessment throughout a building’s life cycle is just one example of the kind of solutions needed,” says Dominic Sims, CBO, CEO of the ICC.
Vice President of Innovation and Executive Director of the Alliance for National and Community Resilience at ICC, Ryan M. Colker, JD, CAE, says model codes help ensure consistency of requirements so that home builders working in multiple jurisdictions do not have vastly different requirements. When choosing products to reduce GHGs, Colker says, “Environmental product declarations verified by ICC’s Evaluation Service help ensure that builders and code officials can trust all claims made by manufacturers and builders are using products that meet the objectives set by the local jurisdiction. .
“The new standard being developed with ASHRAE will help ensure that as decarbonization initiatives grow, there will be a common basis for measuring and reporting results.”
Through existing codes, solutions and standards, the Code Council has already helped to reduce environmental impacts. Since 2006, the International Conservation Code (IECC) has improved energy savings by nearly 40% and delivered over 700 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon reduction since the 2009 edition. the 2021 edition and the 2024 draft, zero-energy annexes appear, while future editions will offer even more energy savings.
To build on this momentum, homebuilders should take stock of the status of current projects in relation to energy efficiency. Colker says, “What code are you building on? Do you meet the requirements for a code program above? Once you understand your starting point, you might want to consider whether any of these programs make sense. Even if your jurisdiction isn’t on the latest edition of the code, building to the latest code (for example, the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code or the International Residential Code) could be a great option.
“Other options include looking for opportunities to take advantage of an above program like ICC 700: The National Green Building Standard, EPA’s Energy Star, or LEED. Of course, there may be opportunities to market to potential customers the programs for which the projects are built.
For home plans already in place, Colker recommends increasing the efficiency of existing systems, including appliances, HVAC and water heating. He shares that it’s important to make sure all lighting is LED, and that proper house and duct sealing can help with efficiency. “A blower door test and a duct test should be used to verify effectiveness,” he says. If a HERS assessor is involved, they can also provide additional recommendations without reworking the plans.
By keeping a close eye on new solutions and standards, builders can take advantage of the Code Council’s wide variety of resources, including tracking the latest initiatives on iccsafe.org/energy. “The latest editions of the International Residential Code and the International Energy Conservation Code provide prescriptive and performance pathways to higher levels of achievement than what is in place in most jurisdictions today, including a zero-energy annex,” Colker said.
The Sustainable Energy Action Committee and the Department of Energy Building America Solution Center are also great resources for homebuilders who want to collaborate on decarbonization efforts, he adds.