Energy Codes in Unincorporated Areas

State law provides for the adoption and implementation of the Texas Building Energy Performance Standards for all new building construction (Section 388,Texas Health and Safety Code). Known as the state energy code, this building code helps to insure safe, healthy, and affordable homes and buildings, while improving the air quality in the state. Builders are required to comply with the state energy code for all homes built in Texas, both in cities and in the unincorporated areas of counties.

While the incorporated jurisdictions (cities, towns, and villages) have specific authority and direction in the law for implementing and enforcing these codes, the same level of excellence is required of all builders. Unincorporated areas of the counties in Texas have the same political and financial motivations to ensure up-to-date building and energy codes that cities do.

Counties are limited in their ability to inspect buildings, or to collect fees for this enforcement, but they are encouraged to adopt the energy code (and health and safety codes) and to require that the builder provide proof of inspection stating that the inspector found the building complies with the energy code. This law (Section 233.155, Texas Local Government Code) was changed in 2017, to establish the enforcement standard for counties, and authorizes penalties. There is no state enforcement agency, so it is up to the county to protect its residents through this action.

There are a number of third-party inspection companies available across the state, and the law requires that these building inspectors must be certified by the International Code Council to perform energy code plan review or inspections.

SPEER Outreach

SPEER is encouraging counties to adopt the state energy code and to require builders to obtain the inspections necessary to document the compliance with this code. The cost of the inspection should be borne by the builder and documentation of compliance recorded with the county permit office. SPEER has developed sample documents to assist the counties to adopt a “county order” for building codes.

SPEER has developed a sample handout for counties to provide builders at the time of permit application that outlines the requirements and enforcement by the county.

SPEER also provides technical support for code implementation and compliance that includes training for permit office staff, builders, raters, contractors and third-party inspectors.