Reach codes are similar to other local ordinances, although they do have special legal requirements as well (see here for more information). This page first lists and discusses the general steps that most local governments will follow to develop and adopt a reach code below, and then sets out a generalized timeline and provides information that local government staff should know about timing here.

General Steps

  1. Develop idea for a reach code ordinance
  2. Work with stakeholders
  3. Obtain a cost-effectiveness study
  4. Develop and draft an ordinance
  5. Public process and revisions
  6. Formal adoption process
  7. Application for approval by California Energy Commission

Develop idea for a reach code

Ideas for reach codes can come from several places. In some cases, local governments may have clear direction from an elected body, from a General Plan policy, or from a Climate Action Plan measure. Even when a reach code idea is not clearly stated, General Plans and Climate Action Plans are good starting places to help identify what kinds of efforts will be most consistent with a jurisdiction’s goals and objectives. Cities and towns may also want to coordinate with neighboring jurisdictions’ efforts in order to provide some consistency to help with implementation and enforcement. Model ordinances, if they exist, may be another good resource.

Work with stakeholders

Engagement with stakeholders is essential throughout the reach code development process. Both internal stakeholders, in terms of other local government staff and officials, and external stakeholders, such as local developers, need to be considered.Key stakeholders include, but are not limited to:

  • Elected officials
  • Building Official and building department staff
  • Any other staff who will be involved in implementing and enforcing the reach code
  • Local developers and contractors
  • Environmental advocacy groups
  • Energy code consultants

Obtain a cost effectiveness study

All reach codes must be shown to be cost effective. To be cost effective, the money saved from the reduced energy costs needs to be enough to cover the initial cost within a reasonable period of time. Cost effectiveness is usually demonstrated through a study prepared by a consultant. Local governments can use any study that applies to the climate zone in which the jurisdiction is located (click here to find out your climate zone). A cost-effectiveness study can be funded directly by a city, but most studies are developed under the auspices of the Statewide Investor Owned Utilities Codes and Standards Team (Statewide IOU Team) and funded by ratepayer funds. You can find the cost-effectiveness studies they have completed here or through their Cost Effectiveness Explorer here. You can also see what cost effectiveness studies other cities are using in the CEC docket log here. To request a cost effectiveness study from the Statewide IOU Team, please contact If the Statewide IOU Team cannot accommodate a local government’s request, BayREN may be able to fund a cost-effectiveness study. Contact for more information.

Develop and draft an ordinance

The cost-effectiveness study tells what measures may be legally required as part of a reach code, but the reach code ordinance itself still needs to be developed. Ordinances often include information on:

  • The purpose of the reach code
  • What types of buildings and actions trigger the reach code
  • Whether there are any exceptions to or exemptions from reach code requirements
  • Relevant definitions and interpretations
  • Any additional administrative requirements

Developing a reach code ordinance will frequently involve working with the City Attorney, the Chief Building Official, the Planning Director, and other city staff who may be involved in implementing or enforcing the reach code. Providing opportunities for input from both internal and external stakeholders while developing an ordinance can help to identify and work out potential areas of conflict early, to smooth the public process. In addition, local governments can ask the California Energy Commission to review a draft ordinance and provide feedback before or at the start of the public process, so that any issues can be resolved before the ordinance is adopted.

Public process and revisions

Each jurisdiction will have its own public process for a reach code. In some cases, jurisdictions may have sustainability committees or climate task forces to work with, while in other communities the City Council may wish to drive the process. What will be similar across jurisdictions is that at this point, the draft ordinance will become public, often together with a staff report. Local committees, residents, businesses, and other stakeholders will all have the opportunity to review the draft and provide comments and suggest revisions. In some cases, the draft ordinance may be revised and released for a second, or even third, round of comments, until the ordinance is ready for formal action.

Formal adoption process

Since a reach code is a local ordinance, it is adopted by the City Council, Town Council, or County Board of Supervisors using the usual procedure for local ordinances. This requires public hearings, public notice in advance of the public hearings, and both a first reading of the ordinance and second reading of the ordinance at a public meeting. Some jurisdictions may include either the first reading or the second reading of the ordinance on a consent agenda.

Approval by and filing with state agencies

California Energy Commission (CEC)

Once the local reach code is adopted, but before it can be enforced, the ordinance must be submitted to the CEC. The CEC will verify that the reach code is at least as stringent as the California Energy Code and then post the reach code and accept comments on it for 60 days. At the regularly scheduled business meeting closest to the end of the public comment period, the CEC will consider the reach code. CEC staff typically present the application, and Commissioners deliberate and vote. Local government staff do not need to attend this meeting but can work with CEC staff to make arrangements to call in.To submit a reach code to the CEC, a local government should create a ZIP file with the following attachments and email it to Danuta Drozdowicz at and Peter Strait at

  • Attachment 1: Cover Letter to CEC (click here for a template)
  • Attachment 2: Copy of final Staff Report
  • Attachment 3: Copy of signed Ordinance
  • Attachment 4: Supplemental documents, such as guides for applicants (this is optional, but helps illustrate the adopted policy)
  • Attachment 5: Copy of cost effectiveness study used. If multiple, a brief overview of which study was used for which portion of the policy is recommended.
  • Attachment 6: Notice of Exemption (click here for a template)
  • Attachment 7: Letter from Chief Building Official (click here for a template)

California Building Standards Commission (BSC)

All reach codes and other amendments to the California Building Standards (California Code of Regulations, Title 24) need to be filed with the BSC. One way to do this is to share the following documents in an email to

  • Attachment 1: Cover Letter (click here for a template)
  • Attachment 2: Proof of publication (as required by your jurisdiction)
  • Attachment 3: Copy of final Staff Report
  • Attachment 4: Copy of signed Ordinance

For more information, visit the BSC website.

Generalized Timeline

The graphic below shows a generalized timeline for development and adoption of a reach code, which is followed by information on some timing issues of which local government staff should be aware.

Reach code timing issues

Because local energy codes must be more stringent than the statewide code, each local code needs to be re-approved whenever the statewide code is updated. As a result:

  • Adopting a local code to take effect early in the code cycle will be most efficient. When adopted late in a code cycle, a local reach code may only be in effect for a few months.
  • If a jurisdiction has a reach code in effect and would like to continue it into the next code cycle, the local process needs to be completed early enough that it can be approved by the CEC before the start of the new code cycle, usually no later than September in the year before the updated code takes effect.

Three options local governments can consider in terms of timing are:

  1. Adopt a reach code at the time the local updated Building Code is adopted.

Each jurisdiction adopts the updated California Building Code, together with any local amendments, usually late in the year before the updated code takes effect. Because a reach code is an amendment of the Building Code, it often makes sense for a jurisdiction to adopt a reach code at the same time as it adopts the Building Code.However, when they are adopted together, the Building Code and the local reach code usually will not take effect at the same time. This is because the CEC needs to approve the reach code, while no further approval is needed for the Building Code. As a result, the reach code will likely not take effect for several months after the updated Building Code has been in place.

  1. Adopt a reach code to take effect at the same time as the updated Building Code.

Another option is to adopt a local reach code earlier than the rest of the Building Code, so that they can take effect at the same time. To do this, the reach code generally needs to be adopted no later than September of the year before the updated Building Code takes effect. This will allow time for the CEC to review the reach code, provide the required 60-day comment period, and hopefully approve it at their December business meeting. In most cases, local adoption of the California Building Code and any other amendments will then need to occur later in the year.This path may be particularly useful for jurisdictions that have a reach code in place that they wish to continue into the new code cycle.

  1. Adopt a reach code at some other time, when it makes sense in terms of the local process.

Some jurisdictions may not have previously adopted a reach code they want to continue, and may not be ready to adopt a reach code when the updated Building Code is adopted. In this case, the best option may be to plan to adopt once the local process is complete.


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