IGCC Series: Star Gazing in a World of Light Pollution

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 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 code sections.

Section 405.1 Where this section is indicated to be applicable in Table 302.1, uplight, light trespass, and glare shall be limited for all exterior lighting equipment as described in Sections 405.2 and 405.3.

405.3 Light trespass and glare. Where luminaires are mounted on buildings at locations that are within a distance to the lighting boundary, measured horizontally, that is equal to twice the height that the luminaire is mounted, such luminaires shall not exceed the applicable glare ratings specified in Table 406.3(1). All other exterior luminaires shall not exceed the applicable backlight and glare ratings specified in Table 406.3(2). 

In today's society, star gazing is unfortunately more likely to refer to looking at pictures in tabloids than to nights spent staring at a starlit sky. If one were to try star gazing near a city tonight, one would find significantly fewer visible stars than were visible a century ago. The visibility of the stars has significantly decreased in recent years due to excess artificial light commonly referred to as light pollution.

As a recent public art installation on the Hudson River seeks to illustrate, fewer constellations are visible in New York City due to the increasing amounts of excess light forming an orange haze above The City That Never Sleeps. The installation uses solar powered LED lights to "reflect" the constellations in the river that are no longer visible because of increased light pollution.

New York City is not alone in its problem of disappearing constellations. Those who go camping can attest to the vastly greater number of visible stars away from the city lights that have become a fixture of 21st century life. 

Light pollution is not only concerned with the obvious aesthetics and wasted energy. Multiple studies have been conducted to analyze the human health effects of light pollution. However, humans are not the only ones impacted. Animals, especially nocturnal ones, can be easily confused by the excess light and alter their behaviors. Have you ever had a bird chirping at an obnoxious hour of the night? You can blame the excess artificial light for your lost sleep.

Reducing light pollution is an often overlooked aspect of green building. Preventing light pollution does not equate to promoting a return to the Stone Age. Rather, green building professionals concerned with light pollution hope to encourage builders and lighting designers to focus lighting on areas where it is needed (the ground) and prevent wasted light from illuminating the sky. The IGCC advocates this approach through its light pollution control provisions which are provided as an elective code requirement.

The IGCC provides measurements limiting the amount of light fixtures can direct upward as well as the amount of light fixtures can emit horizontally that may "trespass" over property lines. These provisions also provide numerous exceptions for lighting monuments, roads, and athletic fields, among others. Despite the many exceptions and the elective nature of the light pollution control provisions, the IGCC provides a valuable framework for cities wanting to curtail the rapidly increasing rate of light pollution.

The next time you are star gazing, consider this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and stare."  The IGCC light pollution provisions aim to ensure this never becomes a reality.

Photo Credit: Girl flyer

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

IGCC Series: Longevity and Adaptability in Green Building

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 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 code sections.

505.1 A building service life plan (BSLP) in accordance with this section shall be included in the construction documents. The design service life shall not be less than 60 years and the BSLP shall indicate the design service life selected for the building.

505.1.2 A plan to accommodate future re-configuration, dismounting, and disassembly of interior non-loadbearing walls, partitions, lighting and electric systems, suspended ceilings, raised floors, and interior air distribution systems for a minimum of 25 years shall be included in the BSLP. The plan shall verify that the interior materials, components, and assemblies have a minimum service life of 25 years, and are adaptable to future reconfigurations with in the interior spaces.

Among the numerous aspects of green development, building service life is rarely mentioned. Building longevity and adaptability are critical to any analysis of long term sustainability.  Among the various elements that factor into a building's service life are the design, materials, utility, location, and ownership. Due to these competing interests, a universal standard for building service life is difficult to define.

The building service life plan (BSLP) required by the IGCC mandates all buildings have a 60 year life span unless a shorter span of 25 years is approved and justified by community development plans. In response to new technology or unforeseen future needs, the IGCC also requires buildings to include plans for accommodating interior renovations for a minimum of 25 years.

Despite sustainable construction and management practices, if a green building does not serve its intended purpose after a mere ten or fifteen years, its sustainability should rightly be questioned. To illustrate some of the sustainability issues related to building service life it is easiest to contrast two very different projects: a university building and a shopping center. 

Universities typically build on a campus where they plan to own and occupy buildings for the foreseeable future. This anticipated long-term ownership can affect the employment of better building materials and incorporation of sustainability features with a long-term payback. It is no surprise, then, that universities were some of the first to find value in and adopt green building programs.

Retail developers often build shopping centers near new or trendy residential areas. Unlike university buildings, shopping centers are typically built with low cost materials like cinder block, stone, and stucco. Some retail developers do not plan to own a new shopping center for any extended period after it is leased. This short turnaround can disincentivize investment in sustainable features and high quality materials. Many of the savings from sustainable features are realized through lower energy consumption but the tenants typically pay shopping center utilities.

The IGCC’s building service life plan takes a step toward finding a middle ground between these development strategies to increase overall sustainability. Balancing long term development plans with the ability to adapt to the needs of a rapidly evolving society is vital to the ultimate success of a building life plan.

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, TN demonstrates the notable difference when building service life is a top consideration. From the outset, Nashville's new venue was designed to last 300 years. To achieve this goal, the design team incorporated elements of many European performance halls combining classic architecture with modern technology and high quality materials. Nashville's result is a timeless building that is also adaptable to future technology.

Unfortunately, the IGCC fails to account for these differing motivations and incentives for sustainable building across various industries. Symphony halls do not need to adapt to new innovations at the same pace as hospitals. Should a gas station be built to last for 60 years? Or even 25 years? Is that the best use of monetary or natural resources?

Though the current provision needs further conversation and refinement, the IGCC's efforts to account for this often overlooked sustainability issue should be applauded. In addition to sustainable materials, clean energy, and diverted waste, our green buildings must be lasting and adaptable to be sustainable.

IGCC Series: Onsite Renewable Energy Encourages Solar Panels

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 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 code sections.

Section 611.1: Renewable energy systems requirements. Buildings that consume energy shall comply with this section. Each building or surrounding lot or building site where there are multiple buildings on the building site shall be equipped with one or more renewable energy systems in accordance with this section.

There seems to be a new solar energy headline everyday. The DOE recently announced $4.5 billion in solar energy guarantees,  Boeing plans to build the largest solar roof in the U.S., and even President Obama is working to put solar panels back on top of the White House. Nowadays, photovoltaic panels are apparently so affordable that even some of India's poor have given up on India's unreliable grid in favor of solar energy.
 
As new financing options and advancing technologies continue to lower the upfront costs of photovoltaic solar panel installation, solar panel-covered roofs are quickly becoming all the rage. The IGCC requirement for every energy consuming building to have an onsite renewable energy source will likely lead even more building owners to install solar panels.
 
The IGCC allows either photovoltaic solar panels, wind energy, or solar water heating to meet the onsite renewable energy requirement. Wind energy is also growing rapidly but the scale of the wind turbines and various location and wind requirements make it an unlikely energy source for many building sites.  The lack of a viable wind alternative leaves solar power as the most likely energy source to satisfy this IGCC requirement.
 
Like many renewable energy sources, solar panels have been around for years but they have struggled to break into the mainstream energy market. As more cities adopt the IGCC requiring onsite renewable energy, can the IGCC help solar panels go mainstream? Or will this solar trend be as fleeting as President Carter's White House solar panels?
 

Photo Credit: agahran

IGCC Series: Diverting Construction Waste While Cutting Costs

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 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 code sections.

Section 502.1: Not less than 50 percent of non-hazardous construction waste shall be diverted from landfills, except where other percentages are indicated in Table 302.1. A Construction Material and Waste Management Plan shall be developed and implemented to recycle or salvage construction materials and waste.

There is a silver lining for the Great Recession: less trash.  National waste has dropped causing the annual intake of the nation's largest landfill to fall by 34%.  Reflecting in part the effects of a slowed economy, this precipitous drop also demonstrates the growing trend favoring green waste management. 

As a major producer of waste, construction has been no exception to this green trend. In green building, the ultimate destination of waste leaving a construction site is becoming just as important as the materials coming into the site. In D.C., Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) diverted 72% of its construction waste last year, adding up to over 1,200 tons.  

Among the cranes and bulldozers, construction sites often contain oversized and overflowing dumpsters. It should be no surprise that the average new construction project yields 3.9 lbs. of waste per square foot while the average building demolition project yields 155 lbs. of waste per square foot.

Through its requirement of a Construction Material and Waste Management Plan, the IGCC strives to reduce construction waste in landfills. Section 502.1 requires at least 50% of construction waste to be diverted to other uses. Under Table 302.1 jurisdictions may opt for more strict requirements of up to 75% waste diversion.

Construction waste includes both demolished materials as well as excess new building materials. Demolition waste can be diverted from landfills using a recycling company, reusing old materials in the new construction, or by donating or selling materials to others. 

In the current economy reuse and recycling is an increasingly popular money saving strategy. Construction projects have used similar strategies and found financial incentives in coordinating waste diversion efforts. 

One builder's trash may be another builder’s treasure. Selling some of their diverted waste can help builders offset some of their costs.  JLL noted that steel waste was especially valuable. Builders can also save money with a comprehensive plan to prevent overbuying and increase the efficient use of materials.

As building codes increasingly encourage the use of recycled goods, builders are encouraged to find the most environmental and economic use for their disposed materials. The IGCC Construction Material and Waste Management Plan promotes and codifies the green waste trend which will hopefully maintain these practices in a better economy.

Photo Credit: ell brown

IGCC Series: Using Trees & Streetscaping to Mitigate Urban Heat Island Effects

 

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 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 code sections.

404.1 The heat island effect of building and building site development shall be mitigated in accordance with Sections 404.2 and 404.3.

404.2.3 Where shading is provided by trees, such trees shall be selected and placed in accordance with all of the following:

1. Trees selected shall be those that are native to, or non-invasive and adaptive to, the region and climate zone in which the project site is located. Plantings shall be selected and sited to produce a hardy and drought resistant vegetated area;

2. Construction documents shall be submitted that show the planting location and anticipated ten year canopy growth of all trees and that show the contributions of existing tree canopies; and;

3. Shading calculations shall be shown on the construction documents demonstrating compliance with this section and shall include only those hardscape areas directly beneath the trees based on a ten year growth canopy. Duplicate shading credit shall not be granted for those areas where multiple trees shade the same hardscape.

How do trees decrease the urban heat island effects and increase building energy efficiency?

Buildings should not be the only element of our urban cores that are going green. Many U.S. cities are looking to reject their concrete jungle moniker by greening community spaces including public streets. Increased use of tree plantings in streetscaping has gained favor in cities including Houston and Nashville. Houston alone planted over 40,000 trees this past year.

These urban planting projects may seem merely cosmetic to the average citizen. But, in fact, vegetation reduces the urban heat island effect.

The urban heat island effect is the variance of an urban core temperature from its surrounding areas. The increased temperature can vary from an additional 2-5ºF during the day and up to 22ºF at night. The heat island effect is caused in part by the high concentration of heat absorbing hardscape materials (concrete, bricks, etc.) in urban areas.  As hardscape materials are shaded, divert heat, and reflect sunlight the heat island effect can be reduced. 


The IGCC seeks to mitigate the heat island effect by requiring at least 50% of hardscape materials to meet reflective, permeability, or shading standards. Section 404.2.3 allows shade from the tree canopies to factor into a building's heat island mitigation.

These IGCC codes will reward existing streetscape vegetation programs and may encourage increased tree planting efforts. Construction costs may be lowered since trees can serve as both landscaping and shade.

Unlike the other IGCC options for hardscape shading, trees also divert storm water runoff, naturally reduce air pollution, and actively cool the air around them.  

Overall, the shade and cooling provided by trees allow buildings to reduce their energy consumption. One of the most effective ways to green our buildings may be to look at the amount of green (or lack thereof) surrounding them. 

Photo Credit: torontocitylife

 

 

IGCC Series: Transportation Considerations for Green Buildings

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 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 code sections.

403.3 Long term and short term bicycle parking shall be designated on the site plan by a registered design professional and as specified in Table 403.3. The required minimum number of spaces shall be determined based upon the occupied floor area of each primary use or occupancy of building. Accessory occupancy areas shall be included in the calculation of primary occupancy area. 

403.4.2 Where parking is provided for a building that has a total building floor area greater than 10,000 square feet (929 m2) and that has an building occupant load greater than 100, at least 5 percent, but not less than 2, of the parking spaces provided shall be designated as preferred parking for low emission, hybrid, and electric vehicle

How will these codes affect transportation options and the locations of IGCC building projects?

"Location, location, location."  Everyone involved in real estate hears this adage on a regular basis. But for green building developments, selecting a project site plays a different role.  Location will impact many environmental attributes of a building, including the types of transportation occupants use to get to the building.  

The IGCC requires many buildings to include accommodations for various forms of green transportation. Buildings complying with IGCC must include reserved parking for low emission, hybrid, and electric vehicles under section 403.4.2.  Under section 403.3 the IGCC also mandates bicycle parking.

A building's location can have a significant impact on the transportation choices occupants of a building make. A location far from residential areas may force an occupant to drive and buildings without mass transit access will have a similar effect.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently been in hot water for failing to consider the transportation impact for locating its own offices.  In the Kansas City area the General Services Administration (GSA) has proposed to move the Region 7 EPA Office from downtown Kansas City, Kansas to an office building in the suburbs.  However, the new building has less access to mass transit and other alternative forms of transportation for EPA employees.  

The Region 7 EPA headquarters were built in 1999 to help revitalize a failing Kansas City, Kansas urban core. To compensate for the new suburban location, the GSA has promised that the new building will be upgraded to meet the LEED Gold standard.  GSA’s LEED promise raises an important question: To what extent can a suburban green building compensate for its location in a low-density area with less access to alternate forms of transportation?

Green building is important in all cities whether suburban or urban. However, Kansans are right to question the wisdom behind moving the Region 7 EPA office.

The IGCC requires a building owner to encourage occupants to utilize green forms of transportation. However, the impact of these measures may be reduced if buildings are located outside of a reasonable bicycling distance. 

While the IGCC tries to create incentives for building occupants to choose green transportation, the IGCC, like any building code, does not address sprawl issues.  The IGCC does little for slowing sprawl and encouraging overall green development like the issues raised by the relocation of the Region 7 EPA headquarters.

Obviously, some forms of green transportation are not available or practical for various building locations. Recognizing these transportation limitations points to important green building certification considerations. Should buildings be rewarded for choosing locations with access to certain forms of green transportation (walking, bicycling, carpooling, mass transit, etc.) or, alternatively, should buildings be penalized for failing to do so?

Photo Credit: epSos.de

IGCC Series: Feasibility of IGCC Non-Potable Water Irrigation Requirement

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 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 code sections.

Section 402.3.3: Water used for outdoor landscape irrigation shall be non-potable and shall comply with Section 406.2.2.

Section 402.3.4: Outdoor ornamental fountains and other water features constructed or installed on a building site shall be supplied with either municipally reclaimed or collected rainwater complying with Section 406.2. Signage in accordance with Section 706.2 shall be posted at each outdoor fountain and water feature where non-potable water is used.

How will builders comply with non-potable water irrigation requirements?

IGCC Section 402 contains various codes promoting the efficient use of natural resources including the use of non-potable water for outdoor irrigation and water features. Utilizing non-potable water can mitigate or prevent some effects of water shortages, like those experienced during recent droughts in Texas. As climates change and populations grow, water conservation will be increasingly important in areas like the western United States where natural water resources are predicted to decline during upcoming decades.

Rainwater is an abundant source of non-potable water yet most of it is routed into gutters and storm sewers. Once the rains have subsided, sprinkler systems filled with treated drinking water are used for landscaping. In Section 402, the IGCC recognizes that our golf courses do not need to be watered using the same filtered and fluoride-infused water we consume and use to cook.

Unfortunately, the high costs of providing a source of non-potable water may become a hindrance for IGCC builders trying to comply with IGCC's non-potable water requirements. In cities where non-potable water can be provided as a municipal service, builders would simply have to install non-potable plumbing systems. Unfortunately most cities in the U.S. do not have non-potable water services.

For most buildings a water collection, storage, and distribution system would be required to provide non-potable water. In addition to increased costs to install this system, IGCC regulation of non-potable water systems is extensive due to the health risks associated with accidental human consumption. These extensive regulations will result in increased costs for both builders and municipal regulators to ensure compliance.

The IGCC requirement for non-potable water use in irrigation is well-meaning but its mandate and relative high cost may prove to be a significant obstacle for IGCC cities and their developers.

Photo Credit: teofilo

IGCC Series: Prohibiting Floodplain Development

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 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 code sections.

IGCC Section 402.2.1: “Building and building site improvements shall not be located within a floodplain.”

What is the potential green impact on the community?

Working to remove and discourage new structures within the floodplains of rivers, streams, and lakes is not a new concept. FEMA has required flood insurance for high-risk properties in floodplains since 1968.  However, IGCC Section 402 does not simply discourage building in a floodplain but rather prohibits it completely.  This prohibition takes into account both the high risk of flooding to structures built in the floodplain as well as an increased flood risk to structures outside the floodplain due to the removal of soil surface area that naturally soaks up floodwater.

Floodplain maps (even those used by FEMA and the insurance companies) often fail to fully account for the floodplain extension caused by development, as most maps have not been updated in many years.  In fact, FEMA is currently working to update flood maps as Congress looks into renewing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

During the 500-year flood that hit Nashville, Tennessee last spring, the consequences of developing in floodplains became apparent to Tennesseans.  Many Nashville area properties were not considered to be in a floodplain and, consequently, property owners did not have flood insurance.  These uninsured landowners learned the hard way that years of development within the floodplains had helped extend the floodwaters to their front doors.   

As a result, Nashville has acknowledged the importance of protecting the integrity of the city’s floodplains.  Nashville has offered to purchase 305 properties in the floodplain through a Hazard Mitigation Home Buyout Program.  The voluntary buyout program seeks to prevent the costs of property loss and the costs to provide emergency services to these high-risk areas in the event of flooding.  Also, by removing structures in the floodplain, the city will create more open space to soak up floodwater and increase green park space.  

The IGCC seeks to mitigate damage in areas similar to the flooded parts of Tennessee through its prohibition on development in established floodplains.  Unfortunately, as the Army Corps of Engineers continues to struggle with the ever-rising Mississippi River, there may be more landowners over the coming weeks who learn the hard lessons that Nashville residents learned just a year ago.  The IGCC floodplain regulation is a prime example of how green building choices often do not only affect the owners and occupants of a particular building but also help to minimize the building’s impact on the land and people around it.

Photo Credit: southerntabitha

Series Introduction: Discussing the IGCC


If the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) is successful, green buildings will soon become the rule instead of the exception.  By codifying green building standards, the IGCC has the potential to make major strides to advance green building practices on a scale that has been unattainable through LEED and other similar voluntary green building standards.


We are currently in the period for public commentary on the proposed International Green Construction Code (IGCC), we at Green Building Law Update have decided to do a series highlighting some of the proposed IGCC provisions.  Most of you do not have time to read the entire 243 page proposed code but that is what interns are for.  

 
Overall, the IGCC seeks to expand on the current voluntary green building certifications (LEED, etc.) by providing a green construction code standard that can be implemented in various jurisdictions while allowing for adjustments for specific local concerns.

 

If your city decides to adopt the IGCC, Green Building Law Update wants you to be prepared and know what it means for you and your business.  Each Wednesday we will post a proposed code section and a short analysis.  Please feel free to discuss the pros and cons of the proposed code in the comments.  Please also note that if you are especially passionate about a certain provision of the IGCC that the public commentary period runs until August 12, 2011.  The IGCC is expected to be finalized by January 2012.

Photo Credit: International Code Council