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.

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?  


Florida Supports Green Building Code


I was recently forwarded an interesting article written by Helen Mason regarding the International Green Construction Code.  She did such a good job reviewing the state of green codes that I wanted to make it available for download (PDF) to my readers and ask her a few follow up questions.  Enjoy! 

Chris: I was fascinated to read in your article that many Florida groups and cities already have indicated support for the IGCC.  Do you anticipate jurisdictions in Florida will start adopting IGCC soon?  

Helen: Yes, I do think the IGCC will be adopted by jurisdictions in Florida. The state has a long history of being a leader in promoting all areas of sustainability. In fact, the Florida legislature has mandated incremental increases in energy efficiency up to 50% by the 2019 Edition of the Florida Building Code and has required the use of the most current version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as the foundation code. The IECC is also a fundamental component of the IGCC. 

Further evidence that Florida residents are committed to sustainability is shown by the adoption of “ Miami 21 Code” in May of 2010 which requires new buildings greater than 50,000 sq. ft. to be certified “at a minimum” LEED Silver. In addition, the developer must post a performance bond of 2% to 4% of the cost of construction which “shall” be forfeited if the building does not meet LEED Silver within a year of the Certificate of Occupancy. How “soon” the IGCC would be adopted will likely be controlled by the statutory provision that Florida building codes are revised on a three year cycle, generally six months after publication of International Code Council revisions. This would mean that adoption of the IGCC would likely not occur until the 2013 Edition of Florida Building Code.

Chris: Some jurisdictions are adopting IGCC as a "voluntary" code.  What do you think of this development? 

Helen: For many individuals, understanding and implementing the IGCC as a minimum standard will require a dramatic change in approach to their work. Therefore, I think it is reasonable for a jurisdiction to initially adopt the IGCC as a voluntary code to allow adequate time for parties to become educated and to discover any unique issues to a specific jurisdiction. However, the only way to achieve significant, predictable environmental benefits on a large scale is for jurisdictions to adopt the IGCC on a mandatory basis.

Chris: You raise a number of legal issues that may arise from the IGCC.  Which do you think is the most significant and why?  

Helen: When one is asked what “legal” issues may arise, typically you would think who is going to sue whomever; but I think the most significant legal issue arising from the IGCC is that it imposes obligations on owners to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings. As part of our national security, particularly with the wide unrest in the Middle East, the U.S. must reduce the energy consumption of existing buildings which accounts for 72% of total electricity consumption.

These IGCC mandates for existing buildings can be a first, but important, step in achieving this goal. In addition, these obligations can produce significant public and economic benefits. Requiring periodic improvements will reduce the deterioration of existing building stock; maintain overall quality and value of all construction and thus help to preserve neighborhoods. The public will benefit by maintaining its tax base and having less strain on utility infrastructure. Finally, these provisions can help to create a stable construction job market to meet the retrofitting and compliance obligations of building owners.  

Photo credit: davesag


Green Building Code Webinar Available Now

Many of you have been asking about the availability of the webinar on the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) that I completed with Bob Kobet, and Basic Gov.  The webinar is now available online, although you will have to sync the powerpoints and audio.  If you listen closely, you can hear the panic in my voice as we tried to resolve technical difficulties that were blocking Bob from joining.  

I have been thinking about the complexities of the IGCC since public version two was released at Greenbuild.  To me, the most interesting and unusual aspect of the IGCC is that it is two codes in one.  The IGCC includes both a model code and ASHRAE 189.1:  

The IGCC was developed with the intent to be consistent and coordinated with the ICC family of Codes & Standards: the I-Codes. . . .

The IGCC also allows jurisdictions to choose ASHRAE Standard 189.1 as an alternative compliance path. 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). 

It will be interesting to see whether the majority of jurisdictions adopt the model code or ASHRAE 189.1.  If I was a betting man, I would put my money on the model code.  The nature of human beings is to seek the most simply solution.  Many jurisdictions will simply rely on the model code because ASHRAE 189.1 is an entirely different document. 

What do you think will be the result? 

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

Free Webinar: The Reality of Implementing Green Building Codes

I have been amazed at the immediate interest generated by the International Green Construction Code (IGCC).  

Despite the fact that the IGCC is still in its infancy, there are a number of states and municipalities closely studying it for adoption.  We have already discussed Rhode Island’s adoption of IGCC for public buildings.  More significantly, legislation was introduced in Maryland just a few days ago to allow statewide adoption of the IGCC.  

Based on the interest in IGCC, I have teamed up with BasicGov and Bob Kobet to present a free webinar related to green building code adoption:

“The Reality of Implementing Green Building Programs in Your City”

The webinar is FREE and will take place on February 23 at 2 pm eastern.  During the webinar we will cover the following topics:

  • The basics of IGCC
  • Best practices for implementation of green building codes
  • Problems that have arisen in jurisdictions that have adopted green building codes

I hope you can join us.  And please pass on the webinar information to your favorite city official or planner.  

Disclaimer:  I am being paid to speak at this webinar. 


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?