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Energy Code: Exempt Cities

Reference Number: MTAS-1122
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: October 04, 2020
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The intent of the Tennessee Clean Energy Future Act, and the hope of the state entities charged with enforcing it, is to encourage as many cities as possible to become exempt. Obtaining exempt status not only provides a city and its residents with the highest level of protection and safety in new home construction, it also allows a city to retain local control of its own development.

The law requires a city to adopt and enforce minimum building codes to become exempt. The specific prerequisites for exemption are set out in the state fire marshal’s rules and regulations; however, the general requirements are as follows:

State enforcement remains limited to state buildings, educational occupancies and any other occupancy requiring inspection for initial licensure if the local government has chosen to adopt and enforce building codes for construction of all buildings, for construction of all buildings other than one- and two-family dwellings, or for one- and two-family dwellings only; and:

  1. For one- and two-family dwellings, it has adopted the International Residential Code;
  2. For construction other than one- and two-family dwellings it has adopted a building construction safety code consisting of the International Building Code and either the International Fire Code or the Uniform Fire Code, if adopted on or after July 1, 2006; and
  3. The city is adequately enforcing its locally adopted building code and performing reviews of construction plans and specifications and inspections required by the state fire marshal. Requirements vary depending on the type of construction.

Additionally, an exempt city’s building code edition for one- and two-family dwellings must be current within seven years of publication unless otherwise approved by the state fire marshal. If your city meets and adequately enforces the aforementioned standards then you will retain local control and be exempt from statewide codes and enforcement.

According to these requirements, a city may choose to adopt and enforce codes for specific buildings, and state enforcement will apply where the city is not regulating and enforcing. Hence, within the exempt city classification, there will be a further breakdown of groupings. They are:

  1. Cities that adopt and enforce codes for buildings other than one- and two-family dwellings: the state will regulate residential construction with enforcement by deputy building inspectors.
  2. Cities that adopt and enforce codes for one- and two-family dwellings only: the state will regulate buildings other than one- and two-family dwellings.
  3. Cities that adopt and enforce codes for both one- and two-family dwellings and other buildings: the state will not regulate within the city’s jurisdiction except state buildings, educational facilities, etc.



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