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Building Energy Code

State Government
Savings Category 
Comprehensive Measures/Whole Building
Program Info
Sector Name 
Program Type 
Building Energy Code
Much of the information presented in this summary is drawn from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building Energy Codes Program and the Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP). For more detailed information about building energy codes, visit the DOE and BCAP websites.

Both State building codes adoption and enforcement efforts fall under the purview of the State Fire Marshal’s Office within the Department of Commerce and Insurance (C&I). Any changes to the State’s building energy code must comply with the State’s rule-making procedures. On June 27, 2010, the 2006 IECC became effective in Tennessee for one and two family buildings and townhouses and non-State owned commercial buildings, and these remain the current code standards at the State level today. All State-owned buildings must comply with ASHRAE Standard 90.1‐2007. 

C&I conducted a rulemaking hearing to adopt the 2012 IECC for commercial and State-owned buildings on August 19, 2015 and the permanent rules were filed with the Secretary of State on May 6, 2016. The rules will become effective approximately 90 days after filing with the Secretary of State. C&I conducted a rulemaking hearing on November 2, 2015 to adopt the 2009 IECC for residential one and two family dwellings and townhouses. As of 2016, the residential rules are being reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office and will be filed with the Secretary of State upon approval and signature of the Attorney General. 

Because Tennessee is a “home rule” State, significant variation exists in codes adoption and enforcement at the local level. Under Tennessee statute, all local jurisdictions must adopt a residential energy code that is within seven years of the currently adopted State energy code but may also opt out of adoption with a two-thirds majority vote of the local governing body. In addition, local jurisdictions cannot be required to adopt a local code that is more stringent than the one adopted by the State, but they may voluntarily choose to adopt an updated code version. If opting out, the vote must be completed after each local election cycle. 

The State began implementation and enforcement of adopted energy codes for new building projects in July 2011. The State Fire Marshal’s Office requires a State building permit for new residential and certain commercial construction in areas of the State, except those where an exempt local government is enforcing a residential or commercial building code itself or where the local government has notified the Department it has opted out of the law. Building construction projects subject to code enforcement by the State Fire Marshal’s Office are required to obtain a State building code permit prior to commencing construction. The Department verifies contractors' licensure as part of the permitting process.