ZERO Code in Congressional Climate Action Plans

On June 30, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released a report titled “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.” The more than 500-page document provides a detailed policy and strategy framework as a guide for federal action addressing greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Architecture 2030 and The American Institute of Architects (among many other organizations) were consulted on the policies and actions needed for the built environment to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting global average temperature to a 1.5ºC increase above pre-industrial levels. The Select Committee’s plan provides a framework, not legislation, but could guide federal climate action in the next administration.

The Plan includes a number of ambitious and crucial points for building sector decarbonization. On page 152, it notes that “the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) will contain a Zero Code appendix, following a zero-carbon building framework, that states and local governments could adopt,” and that “Additional technical assistance and adoption incentives from the federal government would help encourage other localities to adopt stretch codes,” and gives the recommendation that Congress should:

incentivize states, local governments, tribes, and territories to adopt the most updated residential and commercial building energy codes, with the goal of all jurisdictions adopting a net-zero-emission code by 2030. The net-zero-emission code could be based on an existing platform, such as the Zero Code appendix of the 2021 IECC, and should require buildings to (1) maximize energy efficiency, (2) use onsite or nearby net-zero-emission energy sources to meet energy needs, as feasible, and (3) meet the remaining energy needs through a combination of procurement of offsite net-zero-emission energy and electricity from the grid, taking into account the emissions intensity of the local grid to determine the need for additional clean or renewable energy credits for meeting the code.

Furthermore, the Plan recommends that Congress “authorize additional funding, provided through the SEP, for building energy code and net-zero-emission code workforce development, training, and compliance.” (152).

Read more about the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Action Plan and the Biden-Sanders Plan in Ed Mazria and Natasha Balwit’s column for ARCHITECT Magazine, here.