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Idaho Building Code Board taking more feedback before November vote on removing large portion of energy code

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Idaho’s Building Code Board will continue to take feedback on a proposal to delete a large portion of the state’s energy code before making a final decision this fall. 

On Tuesday, the board made up of building experts and community members spent four hours hearing public testimony and debating the merits of the proposed changes put forward by the Department of Occupational and Professional Licenses. The changes would significantly pare down the state’s energy code regulations governing plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems. 

Energy codes are building regulations governing a range of items in building construction related to energy efficiency, including insulation on hot water pipes, requirements for the sizing of heating and cooling systems, and tests measuring how well buildings keep inside air from going out. 

Several board members had misgivings about the extent of the proposed deletions and four members of the nine-person board initially voted to completely end discussion on any changes to the energy code. But, ultimately the group decided they wanted to continue to hear feedback and work through the possible changes before making a final decision in November. Any recommendation the board makes on the state’s energy code will go to the Idaho Legislature. 

If you would like to give feedback on the proposal, contact the board secretary through the information listed here

‘It’s in the air’ 

Questions about what the Idaho Legislature wants the energy code to look like were a major point of discussion on Tuesday. 

Earlier this year, legislators passed HB 660, which prevented localities from adopting stricter energy codes than the state allows. It also gave the final say on the state’s energy code to the legislature instead of the Governor-appointed building code board. This legislation means whatever the board recommends will only be a suggestion, and not binding. 

Board Member Rob Brooks initially moved to completely remove any changes to the energy code from the proposal, leaving those rules unchanged. He thought the board was moving too quickly to make major changes without hearing feedback and would prefer to tackle the possibility later. 

DOPL has until the end of the 2026 legislative session to completely review its regulations and move to cut red tape under an executive order from Governor Brad Little. 

“We’re making a determination that it’s okay to have leaky homes in Idaho and everything is going to be fine and the homeowner doesn’t need to know that’s the case,” Brooks said during the debate. “They’re blind to this and there’s no disclosure to them. I just don’t see how that helps the consumer.”

The exterior of the Idaho Department of Occupational and Professional Licenses. Photo: Margaret Carmel/BoiseDev

Board Chairman Andrew Bick said he also had concerns about removing portions of the energy code relating to commercial buildings because the industry didn’t object to the rules written only a few years ago. But, he and Board Member John Cotner pointed out that there is political will in the Idaho Legislature to completely remove the energy code and not take the board’s recommendation at all. 

They argued to Brooks that if the Building Code Board doesn’t act on the energy code, or at least keep discussing potential changes through November, the legislature may act without their input entirely. He noted moves to gut the code are “in the air” over at the legislature, even if the board hasn’t had official meetings to learn what exactly legislators are hoping for. 

“We could work really hard and it won’t matter and some of you have been on this board long enough know we’ve gone down to the legislature and given proposals and they’ve downright denied it and that means we’re all doing a lot of work for nothing,” Bick told the board. “We’re here to recommend the best for health’s safety and welfare for the citizens of Idaho. As long as we’re doing that, we can stand tall.”

Other board members weigh in 

Cotner, a general contractor, said he is not concerned about any impacts reducing energy code regulations could have on the quality of the housing built in Idaho. 

He said advancements in technology have helped make higher quality homes than what were on the market previously, with or without regulations. When talking about the proposal to remove the requirement for blower door testing on a portion of homes constructed, which tests how much air flows in and out of a home, Cotner recalled a time when he built an ultra energy efficient home in Eagle. He said because of the way a specific piece of ventilation was installed, it failed the blower door test, even though it was the most efficient building he could possibly construct.

The Idaho Building Code Board preparing to meet on Tuesday

“Code has changed throughout the years and building has gotten so much better,” he said. “Our processes have changed, the technology has changed, the type of insulation has changed and the houses have gotten better. To put the blower door test of the one-stop-shop of how you compare all houses is false.”

Board Member Nich Guho, another general contractor, disagreed. He said first-time homebuyers who don’t have expertise in building trades trust builders they are getting a quality product and one way to ensure standards remain high is to keep the codes strong to ensure quality while still making sure they aren’t overburdensome. 

“A homeowner that is a young couple that doesn’t have the knowledge that we have in the building industry and they’re trusting us that we’ve set a standard so that they’re buying a certain quality of construction that meets a set standard,” he said. “To me, I think the comment earlier that was made to lower the standard to a baseline rate to me is not prudent.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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