What The 2021 Residential Code Will Look Like Is In Your Hands

Under the Flex Code provisions of the Single State Construction Code Act Michigan skipped adopting the 2018 version of the Residential Code. This means the state must adopt the 2021 edition of the International Code Council’s (ICC) International Residential Code including those amendments, deletions and substitutions the Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs sees fit to make.

While HBAM’s Executive Vice President for Government Affairs Lee Schwartz will be serving on the ICC’s Residential Energy Code panel, which will hear and have the first vote on all proposed changes to the residential energy code provisions, the final decisions on the contents of the code will be made by governmental voters such as building officials, inspectors and fire service representatives.

There are three stages in ICC’s Code Development Process and building officials and inspectors play a major role at each step.

The first step is the Committee Action Hearing (CAH) which will take place April 28 –May 8, 2019 in Albuquerque, NM. Every code change proposal submitted to the ICC for the residential code will be heard by committees assigned to each topic. Any individual may submit a proposed code change and all such changes are heard and debated before the committees’ vote on them. For the 2018 I-codes the committees dealt with 3,318 changes.

Any participant may challenge the committees’ action. ICC members, including non-governmental representatives, will then vote on-line on each challenge. Approved challenges result in an automatic public comment to be considered at the Public Comment Hearing (PCH). In addition to the floor action, anyone can submit a public comment using ICC’s cloud-based cdpACCESS program

The next step is the Public Comment Hearings held October 23 –30, 2019 in Clark County, Nevada. This is preceded by the ICC”S Annual Conference held two days before the hearing. The conference offers a great opportunity to discuss the various items which will be voted on during the PCH.

The PCH differs from the CAH in a number of significant ways. There are no committees. All decisions at the PCH will be made by those eligible voters in attendance. Changes which were approved at the CAH and did not receive a public comment are placed on a “consent” agenda. Approval of the consent agenda is the first vote taken at the hearing.

At the PCH anyone can testify and make a motion but only eligible voters from governmental agencies which belong to the ICC may vote. Voters are allocated based on the population they serve with every governmental member getting at least four voters and no governmental member getting over 12. This means that four Michigan townships, no matter their population, have as many voters as the city of Los Angeles. This gives us an edge we need to take advantage of.

The final step is the On-line Governmental Consensus Vote (OGCV). Approximately two weeks after the PCH eligible governmental voters will have 14 days to vote on by computer for all the code changes heard at the PCH. They can vote for as many or a few as they want. It is this vote which finally decides the contents of the model code.

You don’t have a vote. So why is what the 2021 residential code looks like in your hands? It’s actually very simple. For the 2018 I-codes there were 16,156 governmental voters eligible to vote in the OGCV. Only 1,552 actually cast at least one vote. Michigan had well over 400 of these. Sadly not all of them voted. You can change that and the contents of the code along with it.

NAHB has launched a program where each member had to contact just one eligible building official or inspector and ask them to support NAHB’s positions on the code changes. They called it “One And You’re Done.”

In 2019 we’re going to do NAHB one better and launch our “Two And You’re Through,” effort. It has three easy steps:

Get to know your local building officials and inspectors. Just like with builders and remodelers, there are some officials/inspectors who can be a challenge to work with. But, on what does and doesn’t go into the code, they share many of our opinions.

If they’re not already a member, ask your local building department to join ICC and to make sure they have registered their full allotment of eligible voters.

Following both the CAH and PCH, we’ll be sending out information on the results including a brief guide of those issues important to the home building industry. Ask your building official or inspector to support our position in the on-line voting.

As the year progresses and the OGCV gets closer we’ll be distributing more information on “Two and You’re Through.”

Rather than just complain about the code, this will be your chance to make positive changes happen. Remember a better code is in your hands. l