Green building will remain mandatory for new construction in Montgomery County, Maryland and effective December 1, 2017, the International Green Construction Code 2012 will be a permitted alternative.

Montgomery County was among the first local jurisdictions in the country, in 2008, to adopt a mandatory green building law for private building, requiring most new construction be LEED Certified. In large part, as a result of that law, Montgomery is touted as the county with the most LEED building in the nation.

On September 19, 2017, the County Council in Montgomery County enacted Bill 19-17 repealing the existing green building law. And the Council approved Executive Regulation 21-15 which adopts the IgCC 2012.

Commencing December 1st, 2017, the new regulatory scheme expands the scope and breadth, including adoption of the IgCC 2012, to now apply to all new construction and additions over 5,000 square feet (being many more projects than had previously been required to be green). Significantly, the new green law allows multiple shades of green that are alternative compliance paths to IgCC 2012. Buildings may in the alternative be LEED Silver certified (an increase from the previously require LEED Certified level), including achieving certain minimum energy credits; residential and mixed use buildings of 5 stories or more may comply with the ICC-700 2012 National Green Building Standard at the Silver performance level; or structures may comply with ASHRAE Standard 189.1 2011.

Okay, there are not 50 shades of green, but given that the original draft of the Executive Regulation was IgCC or nothing, including abandoning the decade long LEED requirement, there are now many shades of green in the County that may be available to a property owner. Credit should be given for the move from the proposed IgCC or nothing to the adopted version of the law that allows options, including significantly retaining the ability to construct a LEED certified building, to the County Department of Permitting Services, who after over 2 years of process brokered the compromise.

Note, that Montgomery County is not adopting the 2015 version of the IgCC. While the IgCC 2015 was approved 3 years ago, that current code is not approved for use by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development which requires each jurisdiction in Maryland use the same edition of the same building codes. Maryland is expected to approve the IgCC 2015 early next year when it approves the 2018 version of the other I codes.

It is significant that since July 1, 2015 all building in Montgomery County must comply with the International Energy Conservation Code 2015, with its energy consumption reduction requirements and many of those now existing requirements ameliorate the impacts of the proposed (5 year out of date) IgCC 2012. However, the County amended the IgCC to use a zEPI scale score of 50 (the baseline from the more recent IgCC 2015) or energy efficiency approximately 5% below ASHRAE 90.1-2013.

The County adopted a modest number of amendments to the form IgCC. Most are being positively received and if there is a criticism, it is that they do not go far enough when some of the mandatory elements of the code are being moved to appendix A and made optional.

There is no grandfathering in the new law, however, as explained by Mark Nauman, a senior staff specialist in the Department of Permitting Services, there is a 6 month phase in when “it is our policy when transitioning into a new code or code cycle, that projects significantly into the design phase during the regulatory transition period be allowed to apply under the code or regulation, ..”

As progressive as this bill is, Montgomery County is one of a very limited number of jurisdictions mandating new construction and renovation of privately owned buildings must be green. The City of Rockville, within Montgomery County, adopted mandatory use of the IgCC effective July 1, 2015.

It is worthy of note that a relatively few jurisdictions have adopted the IgCC with only a handful of IgCC new construction buildings having been completed. Not a single IgCC new building has yet to be constructed in the City of Rockville, nor under the State of Maryland or Baltimore City IgCC regulatory schemes (i.e., instead each of those two regulations allow alternative compliance paths and most, if not nearly all new construction is opting for LEED or the ICC 700).

The IgCC as adopted in Montgomery County will not be as widely read as an erotic romance novel, but the ramifications of adopting the IgCC in this longstanding LEED only jurisdiction have national import. Montgomery County is not only the most populous county in Maryland, it is one of the most environmentally progressive jurisdictions in the nation. It has also been ranked by Forbes as the 10th richest in the United States and accordingly first construction costs do not have major economic implications. Politically, the County is heavily Democrat with a Democrat County Executive and County Council. Observers note, if the green luster is off of LEED there, it will spread elsewhere.