Blog Supplement—Challenge 2

Blog: 2021 Energy Code Progress Challenged: Climate and Affordability Stand to Lose
This is the second supplement of three blog supplements. Read the full blog and other related resources.

Claimed Basis for Appeal: International Code Council (ICC) should reject two proposals that are out of scope of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC): (1) a requirement to add electrical outlets near gas-fired appliances to allow homeowners flexibility to switch from gas-fired appliances to electric ones; and (2) a requirement that new commercial and residential buildings provide space for electric vehicle charging.

Appeals from:

Analysis: ICC specifically updates the codes on a regular cycle, as stated in ICC CP #28-05 Code Development rules, Section 1.2.1, for “the timely evaluation and recognition of technological developments pertaining to construction regulations.” This ensures new buildings are designed and constructed to modern standards. The two proposals on electric wiring and outlets work to prepare buildings for the imminent commercialization of new technologies. See below for more details on the arguments.

Requirement to add an electrical outlet near gas-fired appliances

This simple, low-cost code update gives the homeowner a choice about whether to replace a natural gas-powered appliance with an electric version. This change protects homeowners from potentially high future retrofit costs which could include tearing out drywall and cement to run electrical wiring, and potentially a full electric panel replacement. There has been a massive change in the way we consider the impact of our energy systems, and it’s probable that a gas water heater installed today will not be allowed to be replaced with a gas water heater in 15 years Forcing the homeowner to pay for an electrical system upgrade that is current anticipated does not represent effective use and conservation of energy over the useful life of the building. The appellants like to emphasize the “effective use and conservation of energy” but ignore the life of the building and the clear indications in the market today that can show them that this change is coming.

Requirement to ensure electric vehicle charging stations can be easily added in the future and provide dedicated parking spaces for charging

Globally, electric vehicle (EV) sales are expected to account for one-third of all sales by 2025. Where a typical new home may have wiring for few 240-volt outlets in the garage (perhaps enough for a washer and dryer), it would now be required to have service panel space, outlets, and conduits capable of charging at least one full-size EV. Homeowners and businesses will still need to install their own EV charging equipment, but the costs will be greatly reduced. The cost of retrofitting buildings for electric powered equipment, and parking lots for electric vehicles would be exponentially more expensive to complete after the building is wired, walls are in place, and parking lot cement is poured.

In addition, our buildings need to prepare for grid-integration. Today, during power outages, EVs can act as on-demand batteries for single-family residential construction to power critical appliances and functions. We will see that same ability in our commercial buildings, where EVs become a critical piece of grid and building infrastructure. This integration will allow for conservation and effective use of energy by helping to flatten peak demand spikes, by storing energy when it is in excess and releasing when supply is short.