The Building Codes Battle

Building code updates are becoming key to the built environment as the threat of natural disasters and climate change effects increase

By Hanna Heiss

It’s no secret that the effects of climate change are increasing, causing the need for energy efficiency and resiliency in construction methods. This also means that the importance of building codes is becoming even more integral as our living environment heads down this treacherous path.

Building codes and laws setting the minimum requirements for the built environment, particularly center around safety and protection, with a more recent emphasis on energy efficiency. And in the United States, these codes mostly fall under the purview of state and local governments. However, these jurisdictions are not creating these standard requirements from scratch.

Instead, they begin with a draft or model code. The model codes are primarily produced by the nonprofit International Code Council (ICC).

The ICC administers the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which is taken up between jurisdictions across 48 states, representing more than 119 million Americans. The most current IECC in the works is the 2024 code.

Earlier this year the ICC announced that its board of directors rejected climate provisions that were argued to lead to higher costs. Though still to achieve energy efficiency gains of 7% in residential buildings and 10% in commercial construction, the opposed provisions would have required new one- and two-family dwellings and townhomes to install electrical infrastructure for EV chargers, as well as mandate that new homes be equipped with electrical wiring needed for solar panel systems and all-electric appliances. Jurisdictions are given the option to adopt more aggressive green measures if they choose.

“This inherent flexibility, combined with the menu of choices the latest IECC provides, allows local governments the ability to determine the best ways to address the goals of their unique communities,” said ICC Senior Vice President of Government Relations Gabe Maser in a statement with Fox News.

In a FEMA study, ‘Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study,’ it showed that modern building codes have led to a major reduction in property losses from natural disasters.”

Initiating and implementing the most stringent and rigorous of building codes are the states of California and Florida.

Updated every three years, California releases its energy code, Title 24. The newest version, which is currently in the works and set to take effect Jan. 1, 2026, is undergoing various public comment periods.

Proposed Title 24 standards are looking to: mandate solar heating requirements for pools and spas, among other requirements for pool systems and insulation; make all multifamily buildings work towards indoor air quality improvements with the use of exhaust-only ventilation not to be used for whole dwelling unit ventilation; have certain climate zones implement higher levels of attic insulation, addressing that of buried ducts in the attic space; and target the thermal performance of the building envelope, evaluating savings potential and cost-effectiveness of high-performance windows in all climate zones while also proposing to increase mandatory insulation requirements for exterior walls. Title 24 is also to address the improvement of heat pump performance.

Also updated every three years is the Florida Building Code (FBC), which is a key factor for the hurricane-exposed state.

“Since 1992, seven hurricanes have broken [Hurricane] Andrew’s inflation-adjusted loss record,” said the Global Head of Analytics for reinsurance brokerage Lockton Re, Claude Yoder. “Six of these have made landfall in the past seven years as changes in population, exposures, climate, inflation, and social factors have drastically increased losses.”

However, FBC updates are helping. “While severe hurricane frequency has increased, building construction changes have helped shield owners and (re)insurers from even greater losses,”said Yoder.

Lockton Re, after testing a notional Florida portfolio, reported that, “Homes built to recent specifications will see as much as 90% less damage over their ‘out of spec’ counterparts.”

Though the ICC sets the base standard for building and energy codes, these two states showcase the need and extremes of such codes.

To combat the increasing effects of climate change as the natural disaster count only continues to rise, more energy-efficient measures are to be taken, such as that of California’s Title 24. 

A FEMA study, “Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study,” showed that modern building codes have led to major reduction in property losses from natural disasters. In the specifics of hurricane damage, there is an initial savings in losses avoided of 15 to 20% at the beginning of the 2000s, increasing to almost 40% for homes built in 2016 and is only expected to increase as building codes continue to be updated.

Hanna Heiss is the senior editor of Green Home Builder Magazine. She may be reached at