IGCC Series: The Energy Conservation Obstacle to IGCC Adoption

The International Green Construction Code (IGCC) is a model code for cities seeking to promote sustainable building practices through their building codes. The IGCC promotes a transition from the current voluntary green construction certifications, like USGBC’s LEED, to mandatory green construction codes. As the most recent revisions of the IGCC are currently under review, Green Building Law Update hopes to promote awareness by examining some of the proposed code sections.

Section 601.1 - This chapter shall regulate the design, construction, commissioning and operation of buildings and building sites for the effective use of energy.

Section 601.2 - The intent of this code is to ensure the effective use of energy by building and building sites. This chapter is intended to provide flexibility to permit the use of innovative approaches and techniques to achieve the effective use of energy.

With the heat wave currently sweeping the country, the U.S. power grid is being put to the test. As electricity consumption continues to rise, the increased stress on the existing energy infrastructure has the potential to cause major energy challenges. This increased stress on our grid and sources of electricity makes designing energy efficient buildings increasingly important.  

In the IGCC, the International Code Council (ICC) addresses building energy efficiency by relying on its widely adopted International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Various versions of the IECC have been adopted by the majority of U.S. states and localities. Most states have adopted the 2009 IECC as a federal requirement to be eligible for $3.1 billion set aside in the 2009 stimulus for state energy program grants. 

All IGCC buildings must meet (or sometimes exceed) the IECC building envelope air leakage, mechanical systems, service water heating equipment, and electrical systems codes. In addition to these IECC codes, the IGCC merely adds a requirement that buildings demonstrate energy efficiency through a self-selected compliance path. To incorporate a wide range of energy efficiency techniques, the IGCC provides various compliance path choices including performance-based, outcome-based, and energy use intensity-based options.

Developers are often more inclined to implement green building measures that have a measurable payback. Since energy is a continuous operating cost that is quantifiable and billed on a monthly basis, it is relatively easy to identify direct paybacks from an investments in energy efficiency. 

For the many jurisdictions that have already adopted IECC, the IGCC would largely replicate the IECC requirements. Unfortunately for the IGCC, energy efficiency and the related cost savings is often the best selling point for green construction for both private development and code adoption. By adding little on the topic of energy savings, the IGCC is left with an even tougher hill to climb toward widespread adoption or adoption at all as an actual code and not a voluntary program.

Photo Credit: digitizedchaos

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