Codes, Relevance|


By: Michael Malinowski, FAIA

AIA California mirrors the architectural profession in making environmental stewardship and climate action central to its strategy and actions.  Considered through this lens, even something as seemingly mundane as code development takes on new importance.  This shift was presaged in 2018, when the AIA Blue Ribbon Panel for Codes and Standards issued a report that outlines a bold new vision of building codes and standards as valuable design tools for a resource constrained and climate challenged future.[1]

Until recently, this connection between codes and climate action may have, to some at least, seemed somewhat abstract.  In 2019, AIA CA took this mantle to the next level by successfully petitioning for two bold code change provisions to California’s Building Standards Commission on behalf of its 11,000 architect and allied professional members.  In 2020, these two code changes will begin a long process of vetting, hearings, debating and refining that will lead to the 2022 California Building Code.   Following is a brief summary of these proposals along with a link for more information and a request for support.  We encourage our members, our allies, and all who are stakeholders in the built environment to join us in moving our codes forward as effective tools to shape both our climate as well as our construction.

ZEROcode integration into CalGreen  Developed by the nonprofit Architecture 2030 organization – a world leader in climate action innovation – the ZEROcode has recently been made part of the International Building Code’s Energy Conservation Code for 2022 as an optional appendix.  AIA CA is moving to make a California specific version of the ZERO code a part of California’s codes for commercial construction via the 2022 California Green Buildings Standards Code (CalGreen).  As proposed, it would be California’s first zero carbon compliance tool, available as an optional tier for local adoption.  For more information, questions and comments and to provide a support letter, click here.      

Amendment of the California Existing Building Code to incorporate all three compliance paths that exist in the 2022 International Existing Building Code. 

The IEBC is unique among the ICC Codes in having a focus on flexibility, presenting users with three distinct compliance paths from which to choose.  Each of these paths: Prescriptive; Work Area; and Performance – lead to safe, code compliant buildings. Their differences allow design professionals to match the best code path forward to the unique circumstances a particular existing building challenge can present. Like all ICC Codes, the IEBC has been developed over many years in a national open, transparent, consensus environment.   Thus, its provisions are well vetted and are already in use in many jurisdictions around the country.

The CEBC, in its present state, does not include these options.  This lack of code flexibility in California makes reuse of our existing building stock less feasible due to higher costs and greater uncertainty, which in turn deprives us of the many benefits that come from updating, reusing and retrofitting existing buildings.

AIA California is advocating for expansion of the CEBC to include all of IEBC’s provisions, which will encourage and support renewing and repurposing more of our existing building stock.  The revised code will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, leverage existing infrastructure, increase our housing stock, and boost local economies with well-paying jobs.   For more information, questions and comments; and to provide a support letter, click here.    

[1] Disruption, Evolution and Change: AIA’s Vision for the Future of Design and Construction.

AIA California
AIA California
Celebrating over 75 years of service, the AIA California actively promotes the value of design and advocates for the architectural profession. AIA CA is an association of 11,000 dedicated and passionate members who share a commitment to design excellence and livability in California’s natural and built environments.

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