Virginia's 2021 Code Development Cycle
Earlier this year, the Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development began the process of adopting Virginia's next building code (the "2021 Code").

Over the last several months, the HBA of Virginia has represented the housing industry at 41 code hearings, reviewed over 180 code proposals, and provided testimony and written public comment in support and opposition of the proposals that affect single- and multi-family builders' ability to met the demand for new housing at all price points.

The Board of Housing and Community Development met on October 3rd to cast their first (but arguably, most important) vote on the proposals that have been submitted this year. Continue reading below to learn more about what the Board voted on, including some of the proposals that they voted to "disapprove":

  • Prohibiting natural gas in homes

  • Increase wall insulation requirements to R-30 or R20+5

  • Require new residential structures to use "bird friendly glass" approved by the American Bird Conservancy, which the vast majority of manufacturers either do not have available or would require a custom order with a 4-8 month lead time at a cost of approximately $1,900 per window.

While the final adoption of Virginia's 2021 Code won't occur until mid-2023, the Board meeting (and their votes on the proposals) provided the housing industry with invaluable insight into what will be adopted into the 2021 Code and what will likely not be adopted. The Board meeting also provided assurance that common-sense improvements to the code and housing affordability will be the Board's top priority for the 2021 Code.

Continue reading below to learn more about the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code, the 2021 Code Development Cycle, and an overview of the code requirements that were approved and disapproved by the Board earlier this month.

If you have any questions about the status of Virginia's building code update - or if you would like to get involved with our building code advocacy efforts in the future, please contact HBA of Virginia's VP of Government Affairs Andrew Clark.
What is the "2021 Code Development Cycle"?
Who is Responsible for Reviewing and Adopting Amendments to the Virginia Building Code?
Virginia’s code development process relies heavily on “workgroups”, which are established by the Department of Housing and Community Development (“DHCD”) to review code proposals. Each workgroup is focused on a specific topic or code book and are comprised of local building officials, fire services professionals, energy efficiency advocates, environmental organizations, and many others, including the HBA of Virginia.

During the workgroup meetings, the HBA of Virginia provides comments in support or opposition to the proposals that impact single-family or multi-family builders. Our positions are developed based on the feedback that we receive from our Codes and Standards Committee and members across the Commonwealth.

The workgroups discuss and hear testimony in support and opposition of each proposal, evaluate potential amendments, and ultimately vote to provide a recommendation (consensus for approval, non-consensus, or consensus for disapproval) to the Board of Housing and Community Development. In the end, the Board has the final say on whether a proposal is adopted or not.

The Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development is the state regulatory body responsible for adopting amendments to the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (“USBC”). The Board is comprised of 14 members, 11 of whom are appointed by the Governor. The Board member’s terms are staggered, which means that the Board is often comprised of appointees made by several Governors.
What's the Status of the 2021 Code Development Cycle?
Over the last several months, the workgroups have met 41 times and reviewed nearly 200 code proposals. On October 3rd, the Board met to review the proposals and the workgroup’s recommendations - but most importantly – to cast their first vote on the package of proposals.

Although there will be several additional meetings and public comment periods prior to the final adoption of the 2021 building code, the Board’s votes on the code proposals provided assurance that they will prioritize common-sense improvements to Virginia’s building code and housing affordability during this code cycle.
Which Proposals Were Approved or Disapproved by the Board?
The Department of Housing and Community Development is compiling the “official” list of approved and disapproved proposals, which we will distribute to our members. In the meantime, we have compiled an unofficial list of the proposals that were approved and disapproved by the Board.

Overview of Defeated Proposals:

  • Requirement to have sprinklers (NFPA-13D or P2904) in all new one- and two-family homes and townhouses

  • Increase wall insulation to R-30 or R20+5

  • Requirement for all new residential structures to utilize bird friendly glass

  • Full adoption of the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code

  • Requirement for protection on the underside of floor systems with ½” drywall, 5/8” wood structural panels, or equivalent, if the floor systems are not required to be fire-resistance rated by other sections of the code

  • Increase air tightness from 5ACH to 3ACH

  • Require thermostats/tanked water heaters to be supplied with demand responsive controls

  •  EV Ready/Capable garages in SF homes; EV infrastructure for townhomes/multi-family

  • Requirement for all-electric residential and commercial buildings; Requirement for infrastructure to facilitate future conversion to all-electric

  • Prohibit the use of on-site combustion of fossil fuels as the primary heat source in new residential construction

  • Require installation of electrical infrastructure to facilitate future conversion to an all-electric building, should the owners decide to do so in the future

  • Require gas water heaters, dryers, and cooking equipment in residential buildings to be provided with electrical infrastructure for potential future conversion to electric, if the owners decide to do so
What's Next?
The regulatory process requires several additional Board meetings and public comment periods, which will occur over the next ten months. The following dates are tentative and subject to change:

August 2023: The Board will likely take “final action” on the 2021 Code

 December 2023: The 2021 Building Code becomes “effective”– however, there is a one-year “grace period”, meaning applicants have the discretion apply for permits using the 2018 Virginia USBC or the 2021 Virginia USBC.

December 2024: The 2021 Building Code becomes “mandatory” (one year after becoming “effective”.

The full entire schedule for the 2021 Code Development Cycle can be found here.