2015 IgCC Has Been Approved

On November 14, the International Code Council announced that the 2015 version of the International Green Construction Code had been approved.

News of the approval has not circulated widely, likely in part because the announcement was a bit cryptic when the ICC press release reported “the 2014 Group C code development cycle results.” 

Following a nearly two year voluntary consensus process, the updated IgCC includes those items that were raised at the Committee Action Hearings held in Memphis in April of this year. Each proposed change from the 2012 version of the green code was again considered at the Public Comment Hearings held in Fort Lauderdale in early October, which was followed with the first ever ‘online’ governmental consensus vote that concluded at the end of October. And the final action in the process was announced two weeks later when the ICC Validation Committee certified the vote results.

Those approved changes from the 2014 code change cycle will be published as the 2015 IgCC.

For those who cannot wait for the print of the 2015 IgCC that will be available in February 2015, click here for a comprehensive list of each change from the 2012 edition that was the final action.

The 2015 IgCC creates a regulatory framework for new and existing buildings, establishing minimum green building requirements for buildings and complementing voluntary rating systems, like LEED. The 2015 version of this form code ratchets up, significantly, the energy performance requirements from the current version. And with the delays associated with LEED v4, observers have suggested that a building constructed to this new code will be greener than a LEED 2009 building.  

The 2015 IgCC acts as an overlay to the existing set of International Codes, including provisions of the International Energy Conservation Code and ICC 700 - the National Green Building Standard; and incorporates ASHRAE Standard 189.1 2014 as an alternate compliance path.

The earlier versions of the IgCC were not widely adopted. Only very limited number of jurisdictions mandate new construction and renovation of both private and public buildings must be green. And after the 2014 mid-term elections, many of today’s newly elected conservatives appear to believe that a voluntary, non-mandatory approach to environmental protection is the best hope for stewardship of our planet. It is that same belief that has led to the broad brand and wide market share acceptance of LEED as a voluntary green building rating system. So, the future of a mandatory IgCC remains in question.

This may also be the last time the ICC utilizes a voluntary consensus process for drafting the IgCC. In August the ICC, ASHRAE, the American Institute of Architects, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, and the U.S. Green Building Council announced the signing of a memorandum to collaborate on the development of future versions of the IgCC. And while that coterie of groups collaborated in the past, there is concern that future agreements between the groups, including agreements to exchange money, may color future versions of this green code.

International Green Construction Code Now Mandatory For All Building in Baltimore

Last evening the Baltimore City Council adopted the International Green Construction Code 2012 as an overlay to the City’s building, fire and related codes.

Baltimore, the 26th most populous city in the country, was among the first jurisdictions, in 2007 to mandate that all “newly constructed, extensively modified non-residential buildings” .. “achieve a Silver rating in the appropriate LEED rating system or satisfy the Baltimore City Green Building Standard” (a LEED-like local enactment). That mandatory law had some efficacy with new construction but almost no market impact on renovations as building owners strived to avoid the enactment. 

Council Bill 14-0413 repeals that existing law and commencing April 1, 2015 expands its scope and breadth with a new Baltimore Green Construction Code to apply to all new construction and “all repairs, additions, or alterations to a structure and all changes of occupancy” with very few exceptions (.. one or two family dwellings, etc.).

Significantly, the new Green Code does not apply to: structures that achieve a LEED Silver rating; residential and mixed use buildings of five stories or more that comply with the ICC 700 at the Silver performance level for energy and Bronze level for other categories; and, to structures that comply with ASHRAE standard 189.1. The new enactment allows the Code official to accept third party certification of compliance with these alternative compliance paths; and our law firm will provide those certifications.

There is an exemption process where the Code official may, in unusual circumstances and upon a showing of good cause, grant an exemption from any specific requirement of the Code.

Sensitive that the port of Baltimore, founded in 1729, is an already built-out older industrial city that has shifted to a service economy, the new Green Code alters the form IgCC with 32 pages of edits, including that it requires “at least 50% of the total building materials used” in a building of 25,000 square feet or greater, must be recycled, recyclable, bio-based or indigenous (within 500 miles), where the form code threshold is not less than 55% of buildings of all sizes.

And the enactment corrects some of the industry bias in the form IgCC when, in pursuit of heat island effect mitigation, Baltimore permits the use of “porous asphalt pavement” in addition to pervious concrete. The form code all but bans asphalt pavement in favor of concrete products (i.e., when the IgCC 2012 mandates heat island mitigation for not less than 50% of site hardscape with material as having a solar reflectance value of not less than 0.30 [.. think light colored concrete and not dark colored asphalt]).

In a first for any American city, buildings are now mandated to have renewable energy systems.

Both with the sunsetting of the Baltimore City Green Building Standard (the green standard that most residential projects pursued in recent years) and that this new Green Code applies to all repairs and renovations (not subject to the prior law), whichever compliance path a builder pursues, will be a sea-change.

While there are co-sponsors, the bill is all but the singular and Herculean effort of Councilman James Kraft. It is rare that a code enactment is not an executive branch bill. And the Councilman’s commitment to the environment is further evidenced by the fact that last evening the City Council also had before it his bill to ban plastic bags.

As progressive as this bill is, it should not be lost that Baltimore is representative of a very limited number of jurisdictions mandating new construction and renovation of both private and public buildings must be green. After the 2014 mid-term elections, many of today’s newly elected conservatives believe that a voluntary, non-mandatory approach to environmental protection is the best hope for stewardship of our planet. It is that same belief that has led to the broad brand and wide market share acceptance of LEED as a voluntary green building rating system. But Baltimore has had a mandate on the books since 2007, so, while there are not 50 shades of green, with alternative compliance paths for achieving green building, this bill is being viewed favorably.

Lawyers' Opinions in Green Building Transactions

We are increasingly called upon to give legal opinions that a green building is LEED certified, ‘certifiable’ or otherwise really a green building.

The purpose of a legal opinion given in a commercial real estate transaction is, most simply put, to provide the recipient of the lawyer’s writing with comfort regarding specified aspects of the transaction. 

One might ask why they need an opinion from a lawyer that their building is green? The best response is because in many instances their lender requires it. While legal opinions are given in a variety of commercial contexts, they are increasingly being required as part of the due diligence by lenders when making loans secured by (i.e., a mortgage) a green building.

The size and nature of a transaction may well affect the scope of the opinion requested and in larger traditional mortgage financing as well as bond financing, lenders attribute increased value in the security being provided for loans when a building is LEED certified or the like.

Opinion letters are often given by the borrower’s attorney at the request of and for the benefit of the lender. Traditionally, legal opinions in the context of loan transactions provide assurances that the loan documents are valid, binding and enforceable. Often legal opinions arising from the purchase of real estate involve assurance that the improvements exist accordance with applicable zoning, subdivision and other land use laws and regulations. Opinions are also given, from time to time, that a project complies with environmental laws. And now counsel to borrowers and sellers are being called upon to provide assurances that the real property and improvements which exist or are to be constructed have been designed and exist or will exist in accordance a stated green building standard, rating system or code.

Additionally, as increasing numbers of governments make green building mandatory or offer incentives for high performance buildings, purchasers and lenders alike want assurances that a building is in compliance with those green building laws. Tenants, who with greater frequency are required by law or policy to lease only green premises (from the federal government to multi family residential builders and colleges to retail builders) are a fast growing requester of opinions.  

We also receive requests to give opinions of counsel that a project is LEED ‘certifiable’ or ASHRAE 189.1 compliant or complies with Enterprise Green Communities criteria; commonly associated with qualifying fir governmental incentives. Committing that a project will be LEED certifiable versus certified by GBCI increases certainly and lowers risk.

And while we believe a lawyer should not be asked to be an additional warrantor of facts, the distinction between questions of law and fact may at time be difficult to separate. In giving an opinion, a lawyer is not and should not be thought to be providing a guaranty or insurance against loss.

As a function of the fact that there are more green buildings being constructed and those building are being bought and financed, we will be giving increasing numbers of legal opinions that green buildings are ‘really’ green buildings.

Photo Univ of Baltimore School of Law LEED Platinum Building

Baltimore City is Adopting the IgCC

This evening an ordinance will be introduced in the Baltimore City Council for the purpose of adopting the International Green Construction Code. 

The IgCC will be adopted as an overlay in conjunction with existing building, fire and related codes and will apply when a permit is required, except the new green code will not apply to: 1 or 2 family dwellings, multiple family dwellings that contain no more than 5 units, a structure that is LEED Silver certified or higher, or a structure that is ASHRAE 189.1 compliant.  

It is necessary to appreciate that Baltimore City was an early adopter when it enacted a green building law in 2007 that, prior to this legislation, remains among the most sweeping of that in any major American city. Today the building code mandates that all newly constructed, extensively modified non-residential, and specific multi-family residential buildings, that have or will have at least 10,000 square feet of gross floor area, must be LEED Silver certified or comply with the Baltimore City Green Building Standard.

So, while it was controversial in 2007 when Baltimore mandating that privately owned building must be constructed green, Bill No. 14-0413 sponsored by Councilman James B. Kraft is being warmly received as providing more and better options for developers. That is under the bill a developer may pursue LEED Silver certification, compliance with ASHRAE 189.1 or build to the IgCC. That menu of options allays the concerns of many who will now be able to determine which green building standard is most efficacious for their project.

But make no mistake, Baltimore is not greenwashing. A change in the existing code is necessitated by the USGBC’s June 1, 2015 effective for LEED v4, when projects will no longer be able to register under LEED 2009, because the Baltimore City Green Building Standard piggybacks on LEED 2009 metrics and forms. A change had to be made. Also driving the bill is an unsettled question in the existing code of the definition of what is extensively modified and subject to the green mandate. In the already built out City of Baltimore many projects have not been required to build green that will now fall within the scope of this new IgCC mandate.

The Maryland legislature enacted enabling legislation permitting local governments to adopt the IgCC in 2011 and Baltimore will be the first to do so. Although as this bill is introduced, Montgomery County, Maryland is preparing legislation to repeal its existing LEED centric mandate replacing it with the IgCC. And the State is drafting regulations to allow use of the IgCC on State capital projects, including schools, where the law had previously required LEED Silver certification.  

The first reader version of the bill repeals the current Green Building Standard replacing it with more than 25 pages of modifications to the form 2012 IgCC, and will be available later this week. Significantly for an ordinance that does not grandfather any projects, it contains an uncodified provision where the building code official may grant waivers from the new law for 180 days from its effective date in instances of good cause. Waivers may be key for projects that have been designed, but not yet permitted.

The ordinance boldly describes its purpose to “reduce the negative impacts and increase the positive impacts of the built environment on the natural environment and building occupants.” Mandatory green building has been and remains the law in Baltimore City. This bill makes the flavor of green more palatable.  

Maryland Sidesteps LEED in Favor of the IgCC

House Bill 207, approved unanimously in both the Maryland House and Senate and expected to be signed by Governor Martin O’Malley this Thursday, May 15, 2014 broadens the definition of a “high performance building” to include any building that complies with a nationally recognized and accepted green building code, guideline, or standard that is reviewed and recommended by the Maryland Green Building Council and approved by the Secretaries of Budget and Management and General Services. 

At first blush that language sounds innocuous, however the bill portends fewer, if any, Maryland state and local government projects will be LEED certified in the future, in favor of projects built to the International Green Construction Code. 

By way of background, existing law has required since 2008 that most new or renovated government buildings and new school buildings be constructed as high performance buildings. High performance building is defined as one that “meets or exceeds the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria for a silver rating,” a definition that has existed in state law since 2001.

That law has both resulted in significant government LEED building and been a driver for private sector LEED construction. In point of fact, only weeks ago USGBC announced that Maryland ranked #2 in the Top 10 States in the Nation for LEED Green Building.

But as I wrote in a blog post in November in anticipation of this legislation, IgCC About To Get A Boost In Maryland, the USGBC is falling out of favor in this very green state, including with school construction interests and others seeking state capital budget funding that are concerned LEED v4 strayed too far from high performance building. Those ‘post LEED’ forces combined to drive HB 207. And such is instructive, because those favoring this sidestepping of LEED were not lumber interests or “plastics” industry interests that have been involved in anti-LEED legislation in other states. In Maryland with a mature environmental industrial complex, buttressed by some 114 green building laws and codes, this Department of General Services bill was supported by local pro green building players.

The state will adopt a version of the 2012 IgCC for its specific use for government building before the new law goes into effect on October 1, 2014.

While not expressly authorized by the bill, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (“CHIPS”) rating system which is gaining momentum around the country, will all but certainly be tested in Maryland in future school construction. 

It is also expected that this year Baltimore City and Montgomery County, Maryland will each adopt a local IgCC enactment as a voluntary alternative to existing mandatory LEED centric green building laws that impact all private construction. 

Maryland was one of the first states to incentivize green building in 2001 with a tax credit tied to LEED. Today, Maryland is joining Washington DC and Virginia leading a nationwide trend sidestepping exclusively LEED centric green building laws. All of this should be good for green building, good for Maryland, and very good for the planet. 

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The 2015 IgCC Takes a Major Step Forward

We alerted readers of this blog in a post some days ago, All the Cool Green Building People will be in Memphis Next Week. And some thought we oversold the story. But when Britain's Prince William and Prince Harry arrived in Memphis last week for the wedding of Elizabeth “Lizzy” Wilson and Guy Pelly, we felt vindicated.

And while the paparazzi did not take our picture after we ate at Rendezvou, last Thursday night the restaurant was full of code folks having completed a day of Committee Action Hearings on the 2015 International Green Construction Code. 

More than 900 changes to the 2012 IgCC were proposed grouped and ordered in a big code effort into just over 500 “proposed changes” publicly discussed and voted on over 7 days of hearings. Changes ranged from clarifying confusing text to updating provisions to reflect the new and best science.

Much of the chatter among the hundreds of participants in the hearings was about “super habitable” buildings and questioning the efficacy of the proposed emphasis on materials, including EPDs, as being not supported by science and as straying too far from green building and any articulable benefit to building occupants.   

With hundreds in the room, many representing industry interests, the ICC update of the Green Code is a voluntary consensus based process with openness, balance of interests, due process, an appeal process, and consensus. It is not perfect and at this hearing the concrete industries united to oppose the asphalt pavement industry’s attempt to allow asphalt pavement to be used under the IgCC. The existing code all but bans asphalt pavement in favor of concrete products (i.e., the 2012 IgCC mandates heat island mitigation for not less than 50% of site hardscape with material as having a solar reflectance value of not less than 0.30, including not even allowing the use of permeable asphalt); making the IgCC an outlier as the only green standard, rating system or code to effectively ban the use of asphalt pavement.

With the hearings now concluded the Report of the Committee Action Hearings (to accept, reject or accept with modifications each IgCC change proposal) will be posted online on June 6, 2014. A public comment period will be conducted until July 16, 2014, where any member of the public may provide written comments. And this is where the new IgCC gets real.

Public Comment Hearings will be held in Ft. Lauderdale between October 1 and 7, 2014.  Voting on the final action on the public comments will be done by governmental ICC members both at the hearing and for a two week period afterward with the online cdpACCESS.

The resultant document, the 2015 IgCC will be released for use in the calendar year 2015 offering a more robust and greener Green Construction Code that will be a real alternative to LEED and Green Globes, with broader and wider adoption across the country.

The IgCC is moving forward. On June 6, with the posting online of the then current version, the public will have more than a month to comment. Don’t be left behind. Review the proposal and comment. 

Photo credit Reuters

All the Cool Green Building People will be in Memphis Next Week

The process of updating the 2012 International Green Construction Code moves to Memphis next week.

The IgCC provides model code language, to be adopted by local governments as an overlay to existing codes to establish “baseline regulations for new and existing buildings related to energy conservation, water efficiency, building owner responsibilities, site impacts, building waste, and materials” and other matters. 

It is surprising to some that adoption of the IgCC across the country has not been faster and broader. It may be that mandatory green building codes are controversial and fly in the face on the tenets of green building as voluntary stewardship of the Earth; which would explain the large market share that LEED has, as a voluntary third party green building rating system. But a better explanation may be that the IgCC needs to find its place among standards, rating systems and codes; which is a balancing act between the hard left environmental extremists and the conservative engineering based code officials? And that is what is going to happen in Memphis.

The ICC’s new cloud based code development system “cdpACCESS” will be used for the first time for offsite comments to the 2015 IgCC, but the action will be on the ground in Memphis.

Proposed IgCC changes submitted have been posted online since March 10th for public review. The changes will be heard at two Committee Action Hearings conducted April 27th through May 4th in Memphis. The hearings will also be webcast live.

There are more than 900 changes proposed ranging from clarifying confusing text to updating requirements to reflect the best science evolved since 2012. By way of example, one positive change is GC 159-14, being advanced by the National Asphalt Pavement Association, to revise IgCC section 408.2.4. Pervious and Permeable Pavement, to now refer only to permeable pavements defined as having an air void of at least 15% versus the current measure of a percolation rate of 2 gallons per minute per square foot. Recent research describes how permeable pavements can not only manage stormwater but also mitigate urban heat island effect due to the high air void nature.

NAPA is also proposing GC 156-14 to delete IgCC section 408.2.1 describing site hardscape material as having a solar reflectance value of not less than 0.30. This is significant because the IgCC mandates heat island mitigation for not less than 50% of site hardscape, including that the hardscape materials meet that requirement. Given the growing body of evidence of unintended consequences associated with reflective pavements and the potential negative impact they may have on energy usage, it is time ICC members accept the code may have gotten ahead of the science and be prepared to eliminate provision.

The results of the hearing (to accept, reject or accept with modifications) each IgCC change proposal, will be posted online. A public comment period will then be conducted until July 16, 2014, where any member of the public may provide written comments.

Public Comment Hearings will be held in Ft. Lauderdale between October 1 and 7, 2014.  Voting on the final action on the public comments will be done by governmental ICC members both at the hearing and for a two week period afterward with cdpACCESS.

The resulting document, the 2015 IgCC will be released for use in the calendar year 2015 and will offer a more robust and greener Green Construction Code.

You Can Change The Green Building Standard Today

ASHRAE standard 189.1 will be republished in 2014 for adoption in the IgCC 2015. You can go online today and participate in meetings, public reviews, and more ..

In an environment of green building standards, rating systems, and codes, it is the republishing of ASHRAE Standard 189.1 that may be the single most significant act in 2014 toward improving the built environment. 

When many consider green building they do so in terms of rating systems like LEED or Green Globes  and codes like the IgCC or CalGreen.

As a rating system, LEED is a green building certification system, providing third party verification thru the private Green Building Certification Institute that a building was designed and built using specific strategies aimed at improving performance. Codes are the law. Think the International Building Code.

Standards are most simply a consensus document developed and published to define minimum values of acceptable performance. ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, develops standards for the refrigeration processes and the design and maintenance of indoor environments.

ASHRAE Standard 90.1 provides minimum requirements for the energy efficient design of buildings. ASHRAE Standard 189.1 provides a “total building sustainability package” to design, build and operate green buildings. From site location to energy use to recycling, this standard establishes how to build a green building. Standards are often the basis of codes and rating systems. By way of example, there are many ASHRAE standards contained within LEED.

For those who think the importance of a republished ASHRAE 189.1 is overstated,  note that the Department of Defense, the largest owner of buildings in North America, that is also the owner or more green building and more LEED certified building than anyone else, based its Unified Facilities Criteria 1-200-02 High Performance And Sustainable Building Requirement on ASHRAE 189.1-2009.

The 189.1-2014 will contain a number of new and updated requirements to reflect new information that has become available since the publication of the 2011 standard. In addition, it will now reference the 2013 versions of Standards 62.1 and 90.1, and incorporate changes reflecting the changes to those standards. And pending final approvals, expect changes requiring quality lighting, filter sealing, materials declarations, and more.

You can effect change and participate in all things 189.1 by subscribing to the listserv. You will be notified about meetings, public reviews, etc.  Go to https://www.ashrae.org/resources--publications/free-resources/listserves.

Photo from www.ashrae.org

IGCC Variant Green Building Standard for Public Buildings in Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia requires that new construction and renovation of state government buildings be green. And now Virginia has become the latest government to mandate an alternative compliance path for green building that includes the International Green Construction Code. 

Green building is not new in Virginia. In fact the first Governor’s Executive Order calling for energy performance and water conservation in Executive Branch building dates to 2007, Virginia's quadricentennial year, celebrating 400 years since the establishment of the Jamestown Colony.

In 2008, the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest continuous law making body in the New World, authorized the Department of General Services to create “Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards” for government building use.

A 2010 Executive Order signed by current Governor, Bob McDonnell, said, all new or renovated Executive Branch buildings, “should conform to LEED silver or Green Globes two-globe standards”.

And now, with the issuance of the 2013 edition of the Virginia Construction & Professional Services Manual, the statutes and executive orders have come together to put Virginia at the forefront of green building. Applicable to “all executive branch agencies and institutions entering the design phase for: construction of a new building greater than 5000 gross square feet in size; or, renovation of greater than 5000 square feet of a building where the cost of renovation exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building”,

New construction or renovation “shall be designed and constructed consistent with either” ..

A. LEED 2009 for New Construction & Major Renovations, Silver certified, or

B. Green Globes, obtaining 2 Globes certification, or

C. The Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Performance Standards that is the IgCC, Public Version 1.0, as significantly modified.

Careful observers will note the new 2013 Manual calls to both a LEED and Green Globe standard that are not the most current and an earlier version of the IgCC.

But the real ‘take away’ is the addition of the IgCC variant into the mix of “high performance building certifications” for public building construction authorized under Virginia law. Old Dominion is now at the forefront of an increasing number of governments adopting laws with alternative compliance paths for green building.

On an ancillary note, we alerted readers in a blog post last month that the process of updating the 2012 IgCC has commenced. Proposals for changes to the International Green Construction Code are due by January 10. It is not too late for you to participate.  

Photo not of a green building by Timber Ridge Craftsmen, Inc., Moneta, VA   

Proposals for changes to the International Green Construction Code are due by January 10

The process of updating the 2012 International Green Construction Code has commenced.

In fact, proposals for changes to the International Code Council’s “Green Construction Code” have been accepted since November and are due not later than January 10, 2014. Proposed IgCC changes are accepted from any member of the public. This is your opportunity to effect change in the environmental industrial complex.

The IgCC first debuted with public version 2.0 in November 2010. 

The IgCC is a collaborative effort of the International Code Council, the USGBC, the American Institute of Architects, ASTM International, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and the Illuminating Engineering Society to be administered by local code officials as an overlay on existing construction and energy codes in the ICC codes family.

The IgCC provides model code language, to be adopted by local governments as an overlay to existing codes working in tandem with the administrative requirements of other adopted codes, to establish “baseline regulations for new and existing buildings related to energy conservation, water efficiency, building owner responsibilities, site impacts, building waste, and materials” and other matters.

The IgCC contains numerous jurisdictional and project electives that allow adopting jurisdictions and projects to customize code requirements to address local issues and selectively raise sustainability goals.

To date the IgCC is adopted or used as the basis for green building regulations in Richland, Washington; Keene, Hew Hampshire; Dallas, Texas; Maplewood, Minnesota; Fort Collins, Bolder, Carbondale and Snowmass, Colorado; Kayenta Township, Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona; Boynton Beach, Florida; Rhode Island; Maryland; Oregon; North Carolina; and, Washington DC.

But it is surprising to many that adoption has not been faster and broader. It may be that mandatory green building codes are controversial and fly in the face on the tenets of green building as voluntary stewardship of the Earth; which would explain the large market share that LEED has, as a voluntary third party green building rating system.

The ICC’s new cloud based code development system “cdpACCESS” will be used for the first time for the development of the 2015 IgCC.

Proposed IgCC changes submitted will be posted online by March 10, 2014 for public review. The changes will be heard by two technical committees in open hearings to be conducted April 27th through May 4th in Memphis.  The hearings will also be webcast live.

The results of the hearing (to accept, reject or accept with modifications) each IgCC change proposal, will be posted online for public review. A public comment period will then be conducted until July 16, 2014, where any member of the public may provide written comments.

Public Comment Hearings will be held during ICC’s Annual Conference in Ft. Lauderdale between October 1 and 7, 2014.  Voting on the final action on the public comments will be done by governmental ICC members both at the hearing and for a two week period afterward remotely. cdpACCESS will allow participation, including voting, when individuals cannot attend in person.

And significantly, ASHRAE Standard 189.1 will be republished in 2014 for adoption in the 2015 IgCC.

The resulting document, the 2015 IgCC will be released for use in the calendar year 2015 and will offer a more robust and greener Green Construction Code.

Junk Science And Heat Island Effect: The Unintended Consequences of Reflective Pavements

Among the most interesting exhibitors at the recent Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Philadelphia may have been the Asphalt Pavement Alliance challenging what we thought we knew about urban heat island effect with new research from Arizona State University.

The term “heat island” describes urban areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. The new research from ASU calls into question many common assumptions about the ability of reflective pavements to mitigate urban heat island effect. 

Reflective surfaces redirect solar energy and for this reason high albedo, reflective, or “cool” roofs have been suggested as an important tool for urban heat island effect mitigation. However, efforts to apply the same principle to non roof hardscapes, including pavements, overlook the complexities of urban geography and how ground level reflections interact with pedestrians, vehicles, and the built environment.

The report, "Unintended Consequences: A Research Synthesis Examining the Use of Reflective Pavements to Mitigate the Urban Heat Island Effect," authored by Jiachuan Yang, Zhihua Wang, Ph.D., and Kamil E. Kaloush, Ph.D., P.E., of the ASU National Center of Excellence for SMART Innovations, pulls together research from around the world, including previously unpublished data from the team's field research, that demonstrates the limits and side effects of relying upon reflectivity to reduce urban heat island effect.

Specific areas of concern identified include increased cooling loads (and energy costs) for buildings subjected to solar reflections, increased light pollution from illumination at nighttime, increased wintertime snow and ice buildup even with additional deicing salts, and even human health concerns from UV radiation to visual glare.

"Unfortunately, efforts to promote reflective pavements have moved more quickly than the scientific and engineering research. As this report indicates, reflective pavements may cool a pavement's surface but there can also be negative environmental and social impacts on the areas adjacent to the pavement," said Heather Dylla, Ph.D., Director of Sustainable Engineering for the National Asphalt Association.

The International Green Construction Code mandates heat island mitigation for not less than 50% of site hardscape, including that the hardscape materials be light colored with a Solar Reflectance Index of at least 29. LEED credit SSc7.1 Heat Island Effect – Non Roof contains substantially the same requirement for 1 credit. And Green Globes offers 1 credit for at least 25% of a site hardscape having an SRI of 25.

Given the growing body of evidence of unintended consequences associated with reflective pavements and the potential negative impact they may have on energy usage, it is time the drafters of green building standards, rating systems and codes reevaluate the science and be prepared to eliminate provisions, including credits for urban heat island effect mitigation based solely upon a pavement's reflectivity.

The report can be downloaded at http://ncesmart.asu.edu/news/unintended-consequences. 

Green Building is Far Too Important Than to Leave to the Government

I will be at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo this week and would be pleased buy any reader of this blog a cup of coffee or a beer. Simply drop me an email, .. And while I have several speaking engagements during Greenbuild you may want to attend my session “G09: Marketing Green Building: A Competitive Advantage Without Greenwash” on Friday, November 22nd at 8:00 a.m. I commit it will be an informative and fun!

And speaking of green building, last night Will County, Illinois officials held a public meeting seeking input on incentivizing “sustainable and green features” through the voluntary use of the International Green Construction Code. 

Will County is located in northern Illinois in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Some may think a voluntary (non mandatory) green code in an oxymoron, but this proposal is cutting edge and may portend a future for broader environmental policy through a market driven approach to saving the earth.

The County is considering offering incentives to builders to construct structures that exceed the building, energy and plumbing codes, according to published comments by Ray Semplinski, the County chief building official. The County is proposing reduced building permit fees for projects built above minimum standards and include sustainable features.

Related to the threshold matter of offering incentives for green building, the County will accept comments on using the IgCC as the framework for articulating the incentives. Semplinski stressed, “exceeding the code would be done on a voluntary basis only.”

Voluntary incentives offered by government, whether as tax breaks, direct grants or loans, or advantages in processing approvals for green buildings are a non prescriptive non regulatory approach to environmental solutions and energy policy that respond to the overwhelming public sentiment that government has not done enough to protect the planet while not burdening land owners with another mandate. The green building philosophy is a property owner friendly, results oriented, environmental practice that may portend a future for broader environmental policy.

Such is an explanation for how green building evolved from 1.4% of non residential construction in the U.S. in 2005 to more than 44% of construction last year.

Mandatory green building laws, requiring that government construction be green and even private sector construction be green, irrespective of whether the requirement is to build to the IgCC to LEED or the like, remain controversial and fly in the face on the tenets of green building.

Watch Will County in the coming days as they move to incentivize the marketplace to save the earth.

Many believe environmental protection is far too important than to leave to the government. 

IgCC About To Get A Boost In Maryland

Maryland is primed to expand and incentivize use of the International Green Construction Code.  In 2011, Maryland was the first state in the country to authorize use of the IgCC for private and public construction.

It is not surprising the IgCC found Maryland fertile ground. Relative to its population, Maryland has more green building projects than any other state. The first certified LEED Platinum building was in Maryland. Maryland was one of the first states to offer a green building tax credit in 2001. All government construction must be LEED Silver. Today, 14 local governments in Maryland have enacted a green building initiative, including several that have mandatory green construction laws imposed on private building.  

But despite the fact that Maryland was the first state to “enable” local governments to implement the IgCC as a voluntary compliance alternative, not a single local government across the state has enacted the green building code. So, more than 2 years after the legislature acted, the IgCC can still not actually be utilized anywhere in Maryland.

It is anticipated that the situation will change dramatically.

The Maryland Green Building Council (an instrumentality of the state and not associated with the U.S. Green Building Council Maryland Chapter) is expected, before year’s end, to vote on a recommendation that the IgCC is a “cost-effective green building technology the State could possibly require to be used in the construction of State facilities.” This recommendation to the Secretaries of Departments of General Services and Budget & Management will allow newly constructed government buildings including schools, that today must be certified LEED Silver or higher, to alternatively be constructed to comply with the IgCC.

Second, the Council is also expected to recommend legislation be introduced in January 2014 before the state legislature expanding the definition of “high performance building” to also include IgCC projects. That expansion of the definition would allow not only LEED Silver certified private building, but also IgCC compliant projects to be eligible for state and local tax credits and other incentives.

And against that backdrop, it is expected that in early 2014 Baltimore City and Montgomery County, Maryland will each adopt a local IgCC enactment as a voluntary alternative to existing mandatory LEED-centric green building laws.

Maryland is about to expand and incentivize use of the IgCC as a voluntary green code, in a manner that may be an ideal model for other states. 

Green Building is Now the Law in Dallas

Dallas has now accepted the first building permit applications under its green building ordinance. Dallas is one of the first major cities in the nation to implement comprehensive mandatory green building standards for both all new residential and commercial construction.

By Resolution 08-1070 adopted unanimously on April 9, 2008 Phase 1 of the law was effective in 2009 and Phase 2 (originally to be effective October 1, 2011) was fully implemented October 1, 2013. 

All new projects must either: meet the minimum requirements of the Dallas Green Construction Code or be LEED certifiable or be Green Built Texas certifiable or be certifiable under an equivalent green building standard. Projects need only be “certifiable” and not LEED certified nor Green Built Texas certified.

Expedited review is available for projects that are at a minimum Dallas Green Construction Code compliant, LEED Silver certifiable or ASHRAE 189.1-2011 certifiable.

Projects must reduce water usage by 20%. LEED projects may achieve 1 point under the Water Use Reduction (20% Reduction) Credit or projects may use 20% less water than the baseline under the Plumbing Code.

Single family residential may also meet the minimum requirements of ICC 700. Lots must be designed so that at least 70% of the built environment is permeable. Projects must utilize drip irrigation for all “bedding areas” of landscaping.

Significantly, as one of the optional compliance paths a project may comply with the Dallas Green Construction Code, which is an enactment of the International Green Construction Code with local amendments. Many have noted Dallas deleted Chapter 6 of the IgCC, the energy conservation provision, and elected instead to keep existing energy code requirements. Also deleted are the chapters for commissioning and causing the code to apply to alterations of existing buildings.

Dallas also accepts approved third party plan review and inspection for its green building program.

The successful implementation of green building standards in Dallas has been widely heralded across the environmental industrial complex, including on the USGBC website. Although there are some minor rumblings that LEED certifiable versus actually submitting a project for LEED certification violates the terms of usage of the USGBC rating system.

Make no mistake, the new code remains controversial in broader real estate world, including across Texas, as mandating proprietary green building standards on private construction. However, allowing a developer the option of selecting among alternative compliance paths for achieving green building, here in Dallas, in Washington DC and Baltimore, may well portend the future of a sustainable built environment.

Green Building Code Proposed in Washington DC is a National Model

The final vote of the District of Columbia’s Construction Codes Coordinating Board on the Green Construction Code (and all of the new construction codes) occurred last week, and today the codes are being transmitted to the Mayor's office. The Mayor will submit the codes to the DC Council for adoption.

The new Green Code is significant, not only for those constructing or renovating buildings within DC, but because it portends a new green regulatory scheme that may well be a national model.

DC is proposing to adopt its first Green Construction Code, which would be mandatory for all commercial projects greater than 10,000 square feet and all multi-family residential construction four stories or larger. The Green Code would apply to new construction and major renovations. 

Significantly, there will be alternative compliance paths for privately owned building to satisfy DC’s Green mandate:

1.  LEED at a Certified level or higher, or
2.  IgCC compliance, or
3.  ASHRAE 189.1-2011 compliance, or
4.  Enterprise Green Communities verified.

Additionally, all non residential new building projects greater than 10,000 square feet must also satisfy 75 points on the Energy Star Target Finder Tool which correlates to performing at a minimum better than 75% of similar buildings across the country.

Moreover, all new building projects are required to comply with the ICC International Energy Conservation Code 2012 (another of the codes proposed for adoption) which in and of itself results in a high performance building.

The Green Construction Code as currently proposed is available at this link. Amendments are likely as the DC Council is expected to vote on the Green Code before the end of 2013 with an early 2014 effective date.

DC was a leader in 2006 requiring new privately constructed buildings meet LEED standards and it is again at the forefront with a regulatory scheme of alternative compliance paths for high performance building. For those who wish to pursue LEED that option remains. However, many private buildings will likely select IgCC compliance as the preferred compliance path. That said, the final analysis of LEED versus IgCC versus ASHRAE 189.1 may be skewed by what the GSA ultimately determines is the federal government’s preferred high performance building type.

Green Building Law Update blog will monitor the DC Green Code enactment.

The Green Building Code is Too Confusing

ConfusedI have spent just over a year thinking about the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).  I know it has been one year because I received my first copy of the code at Greenbuild 2010.  My conclusion today about the code is no different than it was one year ago: 

The IgCC is unnecessarily confusing. 

Take, for instance, the IgCC's basic setup -- it's two codes in one.  Apparently, trying to figure out one set of building codes is not enough.  Within the IgCC, jurisdictions have the option of adopting either the IgCC code or ASHRAE 189.1.  Yes, I know that that sentence does not make sense, but it is correct. 

Other aspects of the IgCC create more confusion.  Not only does it include mandatory code provisions, but it also contains electives that can be selected by a jurisdiction and a project team.  Why would the code writers have included electives in a mandatory building code?  One theory I have heard is that the code writers wanted to mimic the elective credits in the LEED rating system.

I support the creation of a green building code.  Too many jurisdictions were mandating the LEED rating system as a de facto building code.  The IgCC was an attempt to fill that void with a system more appropriately suited to a building code.  However, the current version of the IgCC will create unnecessary confusion that will result in the following: 

  • Building inspectors will struggle to learn to enforce a complicated building code that changes with each project depending on the electives selected.  This will result in inconsistent building code rulings.
  • Design and construction professionals will have to comply with different building codes depending on the jurisdiction.  This means that professionals may have to learn more than one building code to do work in two adjacent communities. 
  • Insurance and surety companies will struggle to ensure the risks associated with confusing green building codes.  I have already heard one large insurance company state that the adoption of green building codes will change the standard of care for design professionals going forward. 

What do you think of the International Green Construction Code?  


Are Green Building Codes a Bad Idea?

I was recently given the opportunity to interview Thomas Taylor and I jumped at the opportunity for two reasons.  First, Taylor wrote the forward for the first green building book I ever purchased.  Second, Taylor was involved with the Northland Pines High School project, which I have written about extensively.  Taylor currently works for Alberici’s sustainable consulting service, Vertegy.  This is part two of a fascinating two-part interview.

Chris: How do you feel about the push to develop green construction codes?

Thomas: As a general statement, I think green codes are a bad idea. There are several reasons why I feel this way.

  • Codes have been put in place to protect health and safety. Green buildings do promote some level of health benefits, but it is really not life safety as much as quality of life. Making green building a code issue diminishes all things to the lowest common denominator.
  • Construction firms typically see language in contract documents that state that all of their work will be done in accordance with all applicable codes and laws. A green building code would then force a contractor to build green in order to stay in compliance with the code, even if the contract documents did not contain such features. A contractor cannot use the excuse, “I followed the plans and specifications,” as a defense when it comes to code issues.
  • Most municipalities across our nation are cash strapped. Enforcement of green codes would require a completely new skill set for code officials that currently does not exist. How are jurisdictions going to afford additional training and enforcement when they cannot keep up now? Poorly trained green code officials will only lead to more problems than solutions.
  • I have reviewed many of the proposed green codes. The new proposed federal energy code states that a building owner cannot achieve the final occupancy permit stage until one year after beneficial occupancy of the building and that the building must demonstrate energy performance to code standard. What is a code official going to do if a building does not perform? Condemn the building? Evict the occupants?  Fine the building owner? Lawmakers rush to push for green building codes before they think through the long-term implications.
  • If you have ever tried to get a permit for a project, you know that it is often not an easy task. Can you imagine how much harder it would be if the code officials were also reviewing the plans and specifications for recycled content in building materials and the energy model results to see if the building systems were going to achieve predicted energy conservation?

Chris: How do you feel about various jurisdictions requiring LEED certification as an alternative to green codes?

Thomas: Using LEED certification as an alternative to green building codes is a valid choice. The municipalities that choose to go that route are at least placing the burden for review onto USGBC/GBCI instead of trying to do it themselves. If I had a preference, I would rather see communities use green building as an incentive instead of a mandate. Many municipalities will speed permitting or provide tax abatements for developers who are willing to go green voluntarily.

Chris: How have green building initiatives been received generally in the St. Louis area and the Midwest?

Thomas: The benefits of incentives are not restricted to the Midwest; anytime a developer can get an incentive, they like it.



Greener Cities: How Cities Across the U.S. are Incentivizing Sustainable Development

This guest post is by Joe Stampone of A Student of the Real Estate Game. Joe is in his final semester at the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate with a concentration in sustainable development.

The behavioral shift towards sustainable development that we’re experiencing has changed the real estate landscape, however the marketing benefits, performance guarantees, and incentives that accompany green development don’t come without legal risks. If you want to learn about these risks and issues there’s no better forum than GBLU. Chris has been the ‘go-to’ source for all green building legal issues. When I learned that he was accepting guest post submissions I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of such a great community. 


Over the last decade there has been a heightened awareness of the environmental impact of new construction and the existing building stock that make up the built environment. 

To minimize the environmental impacts of the built environment, cities have begun to develop a wide spectrum of green building policies which can shape the market from requirements such as Chapter 13C of San Francisco’s Building Code, which enforces large commercial and residential buildings to meet LEED Silver Certification to incentivizing exceptional performance and design. 

This post presents a brief summary of the ongoing research on the various ways cities are incentivizing sustainable development. Based on my research, I found that there are 6 major incentives which are offered in different forms throughout various cities:

Expedited Permitting

The objective of expedited permitting is to create an incentive for developers to incorporate green building practices and achieve specific local sustainability objectives by giving greater assistance and facilitation through the permitting process. This can shave significant time off the permitting process and lead to considerable cost savings. Of the cities I analyzed Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco utilized an expedited permitting program while Salt Lake City has an expedited plan review. Each city used the LEED rating system as a benchmark. 

However, it’s important to note that emerging alternatives and a growing demand for performance-based metrics may shift policy structures in the future. 

Free Publicity

Offering free publicity to green projects is a cheap way for cities to promote sustainable development. However, to be effective, it requires an aggressive and resourceful marketing effort to get projects noticed in a market cluttered with green projects. 

Washington D.C. is the best example of giving free marketing to private green projects. They have an interactive map and website that highlights environmental points of interest throughout the city including LEED buildings, green roofs, energy star buildings, geothermal sites, wind energy sites, solar energy sites, etc. (www.green.dc.gov/map). 

Washington D.C. is also in the process of creating an interactive “dashboard” providing metrics for measuring the effectiveness of green building and initiatives that looks at how each project is contributing to the goals of their Climate Action Plan.

Financial Incentives

Many cities are experimenting with or considering ways to financially incentivize green building, however as most cities are resource-constrained this is not a viable option. Portland Oregon’s recently completed Green Investment Fund is the best example of a financial incentive. They awarded grants to projects that exhibited a wide range of innovative green building practices from energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy generation to water harvesting and recapture. In addition to the Green Investment Fund, Portland has considered the implementation of a Feebate program; however it has experienced push-back from the development community.

Density Bonus

The objective of a density bonus is to create an incentive for developers to incorporate green building practices and achieve specified local sustainability objectives by permitting additional floor space above the allowable zoning for qualified projects.

Currently, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Arlington, Virginia offer additional FAR for projects which meet a specific level of LEED Certification. In Pittsburgh, an additional 20% of floor area is awarded for projects that meet LEED Silver Certification while in Arlington various bonuses are associated with each level of LEED Certification. 

Green Building Code Mandates

The objective of the Green Building Mandate is to use a required Green Building Standard as an adjunct to the Building Code to raise the requirements for all aspects of a building’s design that could affect energy performance. 

The best examples of this are Washington D.C.’s Green Building Act of 2006 which requires public buildings to meet LEED Certification and San Francisco’s Chapter 13C of the Building Code which requires large commercial and residential buildings to meet LEED Silver Certification. Austin, Denver, Santa Fe, and Portland among others have green building mandates for public buildings.

Green Building Codes

The objective of a Green Building Code is to redefine the building codes to require all new construction and major renovations to meet green building requirements, including specific requirements for all aspects of a building’s design that could affect energy performance. The best example is California’s recently introduced CALGreen Code. 

CALGreen is the first statewide green building standards code in the nation. It went into effect on January 1st, 2011 and has a number of mandatory and voluntary environmental measures such as planning and design requirements, energy efficiency, water efficiency and conservation, material conservation and resource efficiency, and environmental quality. 

Also, the International Code Council recently released public code version 2.0 of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) which allows jurisdictions to use their administrative powers to exercise the flexibility inherent in the code. I know Chris and the GBLU team will talk more about the IGCC going forward.

Incentives, mandates, and codes offer cities a great opportunity to encourage green building; however I think it’s necessary to determine the optimal mix of incentives and regulations that balance efficiency goals with constrained municipal budgets. 

Finally, a detailed cost benefit analysis must be conducted to see which incentives and regulations will fit the framework of your city.

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

IGCC a "Step in the Right Direction"

I continue to ponder the importance of the release of the International Green Construction Code public version 2.0 (IGCC).  I recently asked Bob Kobet, LEED Faculty member, to provide his thoughts on IGCC.  It's good to see that I am not the only one who thinks the new code is a big step for green building.  

For the last 31 years my professional life as an architect and educator has been linked to codes. Through it all my core beliefs about codes, why we have them and how they get developed and enforced have been reinforced. They include:

1) Architecture is complex, no matter now simple the project may seem. It is very difficult to write codes that apply with equal rationale to a variety of building types in different geographic locals and climate zones.

2) Codes do not lead the technology parade. They follow it.

3) Code officials are generally not known for taking risks or being overly creative in their role as authorities who essentially interpret and enforce the law. Most “go by the book” for a reason, so what is in the book is critically important to the advancement of building performance and environmental stewardship.

From this perspective the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) provides a much needed alternative for advancing environmentally responsible architecture combined with the ability for municipalities to adopt what they believe is most appropriate and important to them.

The IGCC was developed to be consistent and coordinated with the ICC family of Codes & Standards. These are the I-Codes, which include ASHARE 189.1. ASHRAE Standard 189.1, Standard for High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) in association with the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The IGCC allows jurisdictions to choose ASHRAE Standard 189.1 as an alternative compliance path. The IGCC is applicable to commercial buildings, including existing buildings undergoing alterations and additions. Traditional and innovative construction practices are addressed.

The IGCC does not replace existing codes or force municipalities to make wholesale administrative changes. Instead it allows jurisdictions to use their administrative powers to exercise the flexibility inherent in the IGCC. This is possible because the IGCC contains a new regulatory framework that allows choice and adaptation to local or regional conditions. Through the use of Baseline requirements, Projective Electives and Jurisdictional Requirements, the IGCC has achieved a balance between traditional safety issues and sustainability. The balance is a result of collaboration between the International Code Council, ASHRAE, ASTM, The AIA, and the US Green Building Council.

Overall I favor the approach the IGC and its partners have taken with the IGCC. I am hopeful it will meet the expectations of those who have worked so hard to make it available. Finally, there is a code emerging that supports renewable energy systems, rainwater harvesting, grey water reclamation, nontoxic design and straw bale construction. There will be those who view the IGCC as just another code to confront. I embrace it is a significant step in the right direction.

IGCC Provides Alternative Green Building Code Option

Back in October 2010, Doug Reiser and I co-presented on the topic of substituting LEED for traditional building codes.  As we were finishing our presentation, I reiterated our primary theme that LEED standards should not be used as a building code.  One of the audience members raised her hand and asked why weren’t we discussing the International Green Construction Code (IGCC).  

That audience member was right--states are beginning to consider the adoption of IGCC as a state-wide green buiding code in lieu of LEED certification requirements.  

The IGCC is available for a free download.  I suggest you take a look at it.  At the front of the code is a “Roadmap to the International Green Constructon Code” that I found to be helpful:

“Chapter 3 is the core of the (IGCC).  It is formatted to: facilitate the customization of this code to address local issues; provide options for construction which exceed the minimum requirements of this code; and provide for the implementation of best practice. . . .

All of the provisions of this code, other than those selected by the jurisdiction in Table 302.1 and those designated as project electives, are mandatory as applicable.”  

Rhode Island was one of the first states to adopt the IGCC.  Interestingly, Rhode Island adopted the code as an “‘equivalent standard’ to meet requirements that all new major facility projects by state agencies be constructed as green buildings.”  

Do you see other states adopting IGCC as an “equivalent standard” to other green building rating systems?