The International Green Construction Code (IGCC) is a model code for cities seeking to promote sustainable building practices through their building codes. The IGCC promotes transition from the current voluntary green construction certifications, like USGBC’s LEED, to mandatory green construction codes. As the most recent revisions of the IGCC are currently under review, Green Building Law Update hopes to promote awareness by examining some of the code sections.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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