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.