Building codes are a vital tool for states to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. But in a drastic move, North Carolina state lawmakers have just made it illegal for the state to overhaul its residential building codes until 2031.
On Wednesday, North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature overrode Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of House Bill 488, passing it into law. The law strips authority from the state’s Building Code Council, whose members are appointed by the governor, to revise residential building standards. The BCC had planned a major overhaul this year to update the state’s codes for new single-family and multifamily homes, which haven’t seen a significant revision for more than a decade.
Instead, HB 488 puts that power in the hands of a new entity, the Residential Code Council, which will be barred from undertaking a broader code revision until 2031. The bill was supported and largely crafted by lobbyists for the North Carolina Home Builders Association, which argued that updated codes would increase building costs, and thus housing costs, in the fast-growing state.
But multiple studies suggest the updates would actually save households money, while the eight-year pause will cost them on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary energy expenses.
Bringing the state up to date on building new homes and multifamily buildings with more efficient windows and doors, insulation, heating and cooling equipment, and materials that make them more resistant to extreme weather would not only save residents money, but also help the state meet its decarbonization plans. The ban will also likely make the state ineligible for federal funding from sources including the Inflation Reduction Act and drive up insurance costs for storm-threatened coastal communities.