At our last monthly meeting in February we welcomed speakers for a discussion on updating building codes to encourage Net-Zero and Passive House buildings. Below is a summary of that discussion:

The building code has long been a follower and not a leader of best practices in sustainable building, but this year we have an opportunity to update building codes and push them closer to adopting Net-Zero and Passive House requirements. Every three years, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is revised and officials are able to vote on changes – and 2019 is a year for voting. While it is too late to purpose new changes for this cycle, there is plenty of time left to make sure that officials vote to make updates that focus on energy efficiency, building envelopes, renewable energy, and lower-carbon buildings.

Currently, the process is in the stage of registering municipal departments and officials to vote in this November’s voting period. All cities and towns across the country have an opportunity to register representatives to cast a vote, but they must register by March 29th in order to be included. Registration is generally open to any governmental member involved in creating, administering, or enforcing laws, ordinances, and regulations, though each town or city is limited to a certain number of voters based on population size.

Historically, far fewer departments and officials have registered to vote than are actually eligible leaving just a small group responsible for deciding what’s in the building code, and this is expected to happen again this year. This, however, also presents us with an opportunity, as just a small increase in the number of voters can have a big impact on the results. The goal right now is to make departments and officials aware of their eligibility and role in this process, identify possible representatives who would support energy efficient and low-carbon building code changes, and then get them to register by the March 29th deadline.

Here is a recorded webinar from the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) that reviews the code change process and outlines these steps.

Registering voters and passing better building codes this year is just one step in the larger process to include requirements for Net-Zero and Passive House. By increasing the number of better building supporters on the voting body and laying the groundwork through positive sustainable changes this year, it is hopeful that in future years we will be able to propose and pass language making Passive House and Net-Zero optional requirements for states to adopt on their own, if not outright requirements. This is similar to how Passive House was accepted as an alternative compliance pathway for energy modeling, as an optional code that Massachusetts then adopted for the state. If we can make progress this year and increase the number of participants who support sustainable building, then this type of action may not be too far away.

If you are a potential voter or represent an eligible organization, please go here for information on registering by the March 29th deadline.