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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Tribal Green Building Codes: Compliance and Community Engagement

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Code Compliance and Enforcement

Code compliance and enforcement can be opposite sides of the same coin—tribal jurisdictions enforce the code, while designers and builders comply with the code. However, often on tribal lands, tribal government departments are tasked with determining the design and construction method of buildings without having inspection processes in place to ensure building code compliance, nor enforcement mechanisms to enforce against non-code compliance.

How do tribes inspect and enforce building code requirements?

Building codes are only effective to the degree that they are enforced so it is important to enforce codes consistently and equitably.  Tribes can develop inspection and enforcement capacity or work with building code enforcement experts to enforce codes.  In many non-tribal jurisdictions, there are provisions covering the hiring of outside or private plan review and inspection services.  Smaller communities often hire a single building official/inspector to serve multiple jurisdictions, sharing the expenses among them. Some tribes may be able to take advantage of similar arrangements with other tribes or with local or regional building departments.

Some code inspection and enforcement techniques being used by tribes include:

The Department of Energy also has useful information on code enforcement and compliance.
  • Hiring an experienced building inspector
  • Training staff to conduct building inspections
  • Working with a local jurisdiction to provide inspection support
  • Hiring a third-party code inspector

In addition, within tribal communities there are often culturally specific community engagement methods that tribes practice. These methods are an important resource that can be utilized in the development of a tribe’s code compliance and enforcement strategy. Engagement strategies have already been in use to minimize enforcement issues by sustaining engagement through design and building, and mediating conflicts.

Below is some information on community engagement practices tribes have used when designing buildings within a community. These practices may also be applicable towards code compliance and enforcement.

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Community Engagement – Building Design

As mentioned, tribes often have their own, effective community engagement practices to inform their decision-making. Listed below are some of these practices used in the context for making decisions around building designs.

  • Involving Tribal elders, youth, other interested community members and Tribal Council members.
  • Involving those that will be living in or using the buildings in the design and construction process.  Host community design meetings (i.e., charettes) with hands on building materials and models.
  • Work Crew: Construction of Straw bale homes on the Pinoleville Pomo Nation, California
    Construction of Straw bale homes on the
    Pinoleville Pomo Nation, California
  • Developing community cultural and environmental priorities that can be incorporated into the planning process and code development process.
  • Inviting tribal members and community members to participate in the construction process and gain hands-on sustainable building job training. 
  • Sharing information in community newspapers or newsletters.
    (Kayenta) (PDF)
     Exiting EPA (disclaimer)
  • Nominating tribal sustainable building leaders for awards and recognition (Kayenta)Exiting EPA (disclaimer)
  • Developing relationships with builders and contractors to develop collaborative, on-site construction problem solving.

Other community engagement examples include:

Most links in this section exit EPA. Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

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