Recent History of Codes in Idaho - 2000-2018

Prior to 2000, cities and counties were free to adopt building codes as they desired, including not adopting codes at all.   This created a hodge-podge of different codes, as there were three national standards to choose from, and also allowed jurisdictions to not regularly address the updating of their codes, causing builders confusion and frustration.  

During the 2000 session H611 was passed to address a uniform code for the state and for the first time addressed accessibility standards required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act requirements.   At the time that bill was adopted it was directed that when the new International Code Council finished its process on the 2000 ICC codes Idaho would address them.

In 2002, Representative Lee Gagner presented H586.  This bill established the 2000 ICC as the uniform minimum code in Idaho for all jurisdictions that choose to adopt building codes.  During his testimony in front of both the House Business Committee and Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee he made it clear that this code was not a statewide code but would set a uniform minimum code standard for both the state and the jurisdictions outside of state control.  He was also clear that the codes would be updated on three year intervals, which would keep Idaho jurisdictions current.  

The bill included language in 39-4101 that stated legislative intent:

(c)   Establish, for jurisdictions enforcing building codes pursuant to this chapter, minimum standards and requirements in terms of performance, energy efficiency, effect upon construction costs and consistency with nationally accepted standards; (emphasis added)

And section 39-4116, specifically allows jurisdictions to amend these codes to fit local needs.  Both these sections still remain in the law today.

The bill was supported by a task force that had spent two years reviewing the 2000 ICC suite of codes and making recommendations on some amendments at the statewide level.   The residential building industry, represented by the Building Contractors Association (BCA) supported it in both their testimony and in writing.  Testimony by numerous groups including the building enforcement community (building and fire), designers, and the disabled community,  showed support for the language and indicated their understanding that it was not a statewide code but a minimum code set for all of those wanted to enforce building standards.    Only the plumbers expressed concern, and that was that the ICC codes for plumbing not apply to them (they did not).

The bill gave the Building Code Board the authority to review codes and to adopt and enforce those codes  “or later editions of the codes.”

Shortly afterwards an informal Building Code Collaborative was formed, and included all stakeholder groups.  They met on a regular basis to review the code updates that came in three year intervals to determine if those updated codes needed amendments to best fit with Idaho.  They then shared their recommendations with the Idaho State Building Code Board, who made the final determinations on code adoption.   This process worked well for several years.

In 2010, the state of Idaho signed an agreement with the federal Department of Energy to begin adoption and implementation of the current International Energy Efficiency Code (IECC).  Prior to that cities and counties were enforcing different standards for energy savings.  The 2009 IECC was adopted statewide and became part of the “minimum” code.   Representatives of the BCA balked at the additional energy saving building requirements as too expensive.   Since then many amendments have been made to accommodate some of the builders’ concerns.  

The next code update came around and BCA balked, not just to the energy code update, but to the residential code updates.  After a long, and continuous process, the 2012 version of the residential code was adopted in 2015 but with 2009 amendments in the energy related sections.   The 2012 IECC was also adopted but with the 2009 residential portion.   

In 2016, discussions on the 2015 versions of the ICC suite of codes was begun.   After a long, and again contentious, process that bled into 2017, in which numerous amendments were offered to address builder concerns, the Building Contractors Association announced that they were walking away from the table.  They have not formally returned to the stakeholders meetings since that time. After much testimony, the vast majority in favor of adopting the full suite of 2015 ICC codes, the Building Code Board adopted them.  

However, at their next scheduled meeting they were informed by the Governor’s office (via the Division of Building Safety Director) and several legislators, at the request of the BCA, that the 2015 residential codes (both residential building and energy) would not be approved.   They were forced to reconsider their vote, which had been based on public and stakeholder testimony,  and not move forward with the update of the residential codes.  By the next code update cycle Idaho will have not updated residential building codes for over a decade!

The Result:

Idaho now has adopted commercial, existing and energy building codes that are updated to 2015 standards, while companion residential codes have not been updated in the past 6-9 years.   Issues have arisen including:

  • References to building materials, supplies, processes and technologies referenced in the residential code no longer match the updates 2015 commercial codes as they are no longer compatible.  

  • The building material industry has already moved on to the 2015 standards in residential construction (i.e you can no longer get a window that meets 2012 standards although that is what is currently required)

  • Designers and builders all over the state are requesting plan reviews, energy requirements and inspections at the 2015 levels

Under pressure from their constituents, over a dozen cities and counties in Idaho have moved forward to amend their codes to adopt 2015 residential and energy provisions.  Over a dozen more are currently in the process of doing so.   In a majority of those jurisdictions, from all over the state, there were no comments or protests from their constituents or building communities, only support.  In Boise, the biggest city to move forward, with over 40 who testified representing many constituent group (including other builder and designer groups), less than 10 protested and they all represented the BCA.