The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) recently published a white paper entitled "Greening the Codes" that is simultaneously very helpful and somewhat frustrating. The most important information is buried on page seven after an unnecessary review of the history of building codes. But if you can get through the first six pages, you will find that the USGBC has made an important statement, although one that could have been made more boldly:
"Raising the Floor: While green building rating systems such as LEED have been designed to benchmark above-code leadership for buildings that intend to go beyond the minimum, it is equally important to complement this leadership with stronger, more comprehensive building codes. Safer, healthier, and more environmentally responsible codes are at the heart of sustainability planning for raising the floor for the entire community. These codes are a viable new baseline off which incentives for exemplary leadership and commitments for public buildings to pave the way can naturally be built.
For commercial buildings: Consider adopting the International Green Construction Code and its technically rigorous 189.1 compliance path.
For residential buildings: In addition to adopting and implementing the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, consider a well-established local green homebuilding program in your area. In the absence of such a program, the ICC-700 compliance path of the International Green Construction Code should be considered as a means for jurisdictional oversight for residential buildings."
I wish the white paper had stated in big bold letters on page one "STOP USING THE LEED RATING SYSTEM FOR BUILDING CODES." But the statement in the white paper is a good start.
Based on this white paper, I would suggest that it is time to revisit the D.C. Green Building Act before it’s too late. As you may recall, starting in 2012, all private construction greater than 50,000 square feet will be required to achieve LEED certification in Washington, D.C. The USGBC’s white paper all but states that the LEED rating system should not be used as a de facto building code for commercial buildings.
And there still remains the issue of the unavailable "bonds" required to enforce the Act, but I won’t get started on that. At least for now.
What are your thoughts on "Greening the Codes"?