ICC To Create Commercial Green Building Code

The International Code Council, the non-profit organization which develops and maintains the International Building Code, announced on Earth Day that they were creating a new "green" commercial building code which would be in line with the ICC's other building code products. 

ICC codes are "consensus" based codes, so the process for developing the code involves:

  • Convening a select drafting committee
  • Inviting public comment on the initial draft
  • Placing the final draft into the ICC code development process

This code may address the common criticism of LEED and other green building standards that they are not designed to be incorporated into building codes, and that they are not specific enough to be used as legal platforms. 

ICC is not the first organization to attempt to create a building-code friendly standard for green.  ASHRAE convened a committee to develop Standard 189.1 several years ago 

Proposed Standard 189, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, will provide minimum requirements for the design of sustainable buildings to balance environmental responsibility, resource efficiency, occupant comfort and well-being, and community sensitivity. Using USGBC’s LEED Green Building Rating System, which addresses the top 25% of building practice, as a key resource, Standard 189P will provide a baseline that will drive green building into mainstream building practices.

Standard 189P will be an ANSI-accredited standard that can be incorporated into building code. It is intended that the standard will eventually become a prerequisite under LEED.

After releasing a draft standard in 2007, the ASHRAE dissolved the original committee in late 2008, and reconstituted it at the beginning of 2009.  There was a great deal of scuttle that the committee was dissolved because major builders, manufacturers and developers did not have enough of a say in the development of the standard. 

It will be interesting to see if ICC will be more successful that ASHRAE in developing a commercial green building code, and whether that code will, in fact, be green.  ICC developed a residential green standard with the National Association of Home Builders, and the criticism of the NAHB Green standard is that the requirements are not as stringent as LEED for Homes.  We shall see if the ICC green commercial standard will incorporate the same green requirements as LEED-NC. 

Finally, even creating an ICC green code will not solve the issue expressed by code officials that there is a lack of expertise and training in green construction.  In fact, if the ICC code is developed and adopted in municipalities and states across the country, a much greater investment will be required in training, education and expertise to ensure that the codes are implemented and enforced properly.

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Green Building Law Blog - May 11, 2009 3:34 PM
At the National Association of Home Builders' Green Conference in Dallas this weekend, conversation turned to retrofitting buildings. There was universal acknowledgement among the homebuilders I spoke to that building new homes was going to be dwarfed ...
Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Doug Poffinbarger - May 11, 2009 11:42 AM

I hope that other green building engineers and architects will weigh in. In order for our future building stock to be efficient, we must stop protecting old technologies in the name of jobs. Decades of transition in California via Title 24 have proven that the industry will adopt change automatically without burdening the taxpayer. City code officials need to do the same by attending green building conferences and training for continuing education credits - of which there are plenty already. Bottom line, transition is easy, not difficult.

Bill Swanson - June 4, 2009 12:05 PM

Let's try to incorporate the old manufacturing motto of "Keep it simple, stupid." or KISS. The size and complexity of these proposed green Codes is a barrier to adoption, implementation, and enforcement. The Pareto principle (80-20 rule) may be applicable. 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Start with that 20% of causes and focus on what regulations would improve building performance and operation most significantly. And there's no need to write a novel if an essay will do. If possible, avoid costly energy modeling. You should be able to determine in advance what building basics save the most energy. Make a list of minimum design criteria. Roof R-value, wall R-value, Window U-value, max 50% window area, lighting power density, occupancy sensors, building commissioning, HVAC performance, etc. If all of these are met then no energy model is required. Education of designers and inspectors would be advisable so make available a handbook with how-to advice.

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