Adoption Process

Energy codes are adopted at the state and local jurisdiction levels and, in most cases, are part of a broader set of codes addressing building, fire, electrical and many other aspects of the built environment. Adoption can occur directly by legislative action, or through regulatory agencies authorized by the authoritative legislative body. Once adopted through regulation, the code becomes law within the particular state or local jurisdiction.

Legislative Action

Once proposed, energy code legislation may travel a path of hearings, public commentary, and following revisions. This process typically culminates with the approval of a voting body of authority, and the signature of the governor, mayor, or applicable elected official. Legislation then becomes statutory law, effective on a specified date. Laws created in such a fashion may reference a specific energy code by name, or can reference specific code provisions.

Regulatory Action

The legislative process outlined above 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.

Typical adoption process, state and local

The Adoption Process

Details of the adoption process vary considerably from state-to-state, depending on whether the energy code is adopted via legislation or regulation, and by a state or local government. The adoption process generally includes the following steps:

  1. A proposal is initiated through legislation, or by a regulatory agency with the authority to promulgate energy codes. Interested or affected parties also may initiate proposals. An advisory body typically is convened and will recommend a new energy code or revisions to an existing code. Examples of typical initiators may include a State Energy Office, State Appointed Energy Code Council, Local Building Officials, Mayor, or City Council.
  2. The proposal undergoes a public review, as defined by the legislative or regulatory process under which the code is being considered. Public review options may include publishing a notice in key publications, filing notices of intent, or holding public hearings. Interested and affected parties are invited to submit written or oral comments.
  3. The results of the review process are incorporated into the proposal and the final legislation or regulation is prepared for approval.
  4. The approving authority reviews the legislation or regulation. Revisions may be submitted to the designated authority for final approval or for filing.
  5. After being filed or approved, the code is scheduled to become effective on a specified date. The delay creates a grace period allowing affected stakeholders to become familiar with any new requirements. The period between adoption and effective date typically varies from 30 days to six months.

In some instances, the law may automatically adopt an energy code upon release of the latest published edition. Beyond the process outlined above, the adoption of energy codes for state funded and/or owned buildings can also occur through the design and construction contract, where energy code provisions can be specified directly and/or by reference in the contract language.

Additional information for individual U.S. states and territories is available in the status of state codes.

Timing Energy Code Adoption

Energy code adoption is triggered by a positive Determination, which is issued by DOE when a revised code reduces energy use compared to the prior edition. For commercial buildings, the Determination is tied to the most recent version of ASHRAE Standard 90.1. For residential buildings, the Determination is based on the most recent version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). A positive determination triggers statutory requirements, which then sets state and local adoption processes in motion. For information on these requirements, see Determinations.

More information on the timing of model code publications is also available in Development.