August 21, 2020

2021 Code Changes in the Northwest - What You Need to Know 


Codes are evolving in the Northwest. Each state in the region evaluates and updates their energy codes on a regular cycle (typically every three years). Over the past year, Idaho made a move to adopt the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), effective January 1, 2021. Idaho’s adoption of the 2018 IECC has a few amendments to the base code, but changes are minor and are intended to help smooth adoption (for instance, requiring a 20% compliance check for building tightness).

Washington state has adopted and extended the start date of their energy code (2018 Washington State Energy Code (WSEC), effective February 1, 2021. Stakeholders may be aware that the WSEC is a version of the IECC, but with some major amendments, primarily in sections 406.2 and 406.3, which direct builders to achieve points for adopting measures above and beyond the IECC base code. Section 406.2 applies a carbon adjustment to the point totals, requiring more points for electric resistance heated homes, no point adjustment for gas heated homes, and a one-point reduction in points needed if heating with a heat pump. Section 406.3 organizes measures and corresponding points to building assemblies and equipment such as building envelope, heating equipment, domestic hot water, and renewables.

Oregon is undergoing board meetings to determine what will be included in the upcoming Oregon Residential Specialty Code (ORSC). The Building Codes Division and Oregon Department of Energy (BCD and ODOE respectively) anticipate that by September or October of 2020 a final ORSC proposal will be presented with the intent that it should go live in April of 2021. It is not anticipated at this time that the energy portion of the ORSC will include aggressive changes, although the state awaits the final recommendations from the two contributing boards that are still meeting. Looking ahead, via Executive Order 20-04, BCD is required to adopt building energy efficiency goals for 2030 for new residential and commercial construction, representing a 60% reduction in new building annual site consumption of energy from the adopted 2006 Oregon codes.

Finally, Montana is looking to possibly adopt the 2018 IECC in 2021, but discussions and planning are still underway.

If you are a production builder, who builds more than 50 homes a year, or a volume rater, who rates or consults on more than 75 homes a year, in Washington and are looking for assistance with meeting the 2018 WSEC and would like to discuss options, processes, advanced measures, and using utility incentives and tax credits, please reach out to our team at and we will be happy to engage you and your trades to make this process as easy as possible.

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