Confidence in quality: U.S. government incorporation of the I-Codes
The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA), as implemented through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119, generally requires the federal government to leverage private sector developed codes and standards instead of developing government-unique ones. Consistent with the NTTAA and the OMB Circular, federal agencies adopt the International Codes (I-Codes) for the design and construction of U.S.-owned buildings worldwide.
The General Services Administration (GSA), requires the latest edition of the I-Codes for all GSA owned/managed buildings. Several other agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Park Service and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reference the I-Codes in their agency-specific design guides. The Department of Defense requires several of the I-Codes through the Unified Facilities Criteria, which directs the use of the 2018 editions of the International Building Code (IBC), International Residential Code (IRC), International Existing Building Code, International Mechanical Code and International Plumbing Code.
Looking abroad, the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, through the Department of State Overseas Building Office (OBO) adopts (and supplements) the most recent editions of the IBC and IRC for U.S. embassies and all U.S.-managed foreign-based property. The 2019 OBO Code adopts the 2015 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) and amends its provisions on a chapter-by-chapter basis.
The federal government has also leveraged the hazard mitigation benefits the I-Codes provide. Two recent White House Executive Orders require all new construction of federal buildings adhere to the latest IWUIC and earthquake-resistant design provisions of the latest IBC and IRC, within two-years of publication. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will not provide funding to rebuild public facilities post-disaster recovery unless the construction meets the current I-Codes and several hazard-specific International Code Council standards. For pre-disaster mitigation, FEMA’s new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program gives extra credit to grant applicants (i.e., states, tribes and territories) that have adopted one of the two most recently published editions of the IBC and IRC.
Recognizing that codes are most effective with proper implementation, Congress and the administration support training and certification efforts. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, through the Consumer Product Safety Commission, offers up to $10,000 in competitive pool safety code enforcement training grants for states or jurisdictions adopting the 2015 or 2018 ISPSC. The BRIC program provides grants to support effective code implementation and directs applicants to the Code Council’s webpages for training and certification opportunities. The agency’s materials also highlight the Code Council’s When Disaster Strikes Institute under its eligible building code activities under BRIC. In areas without code enforcement, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires lenders leveraging Federal Housing Administration backed loans, to provide certification from a Code Council certified residential combination inspector or combination inspectors that the funded construction is code compliant.
Congress has also recognized the conservation benefits the I-Codes provide and references them as baselines for incentives that encourage energy-efficient construction. Currently, there are two tax credits available that incentivize the use of the 2009 and 2006 IECC, respectively. The 25C credit provides a $500 rebate for homeowners’ energy efficiency improvements that meet the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), while the 45L credit provides a $2,000 credit to homebuilders for new construction achieving 50 percent savings for heating and cooling over the 2006 IECC and supplements.
The IECC is also an important part of the Departments of Energy’s (DOE) and HUD energy conservation work. The DOE models each revised edition of the IECC and makes a determination on whether it improves energy efficiency. States then certify whether they will update their residential energy code based on those findings. The Department of Agriculture and HUD use the DOE’s IECC determinations to set minimum energy standards for several housing programs.
Utilizing the I-Codes accessibility provisions, by determining that they satisfy the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements, HUD has included the 2000, 2003 and 2006 IBC and the ICC A117.1 (1998, 2003) on its list of safe harbors and has proposed accepting the 2009–2018 IBC and the A117.1-2009 as well.