Greening the Codes

I have been discussing the difficulties of greening building codes with municipal officials nationwide this week.  There are really two problems: 1) legacy codes which inhibit green building practices; and 2) state and federal laws which prevent municipalities from upgrading their building codes.

The East Hampton Star had an article about the problems of legacy codes. The town required asphalt paving, where developers wanted to use greener pervious paving materials.  They had to convince the township to allow the alternate material.  This causes delays and added cost to the building process.

Many municipalities and states (including my very own Philadelphia and Pennsylvania) are looking to revise their building codes to allow for greener practices, and in some cases (like California) require them.  However, many municipalities face state-wide mandated building codes which preempt their efforts to enhance their building codes.  In other localities, there is a resistance to implementing a new mandatory greener code. 

This week I heard from two sources about an interesting way to thread this needle.  Local governments are enacting "voluntary" appendices to their building codes outlining approved green practices.  This has many benefits.  First, it educates builders and municipal officials in green building practices.  Second, it builds municipal capacity slowly to understand, evaluate and approve green practices.  Third, it solves the East Hampton problem by having pre-approved green alternatives to the standard building code.