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The New International Green Construction Code

Industrial facility owners and operators planning for new construction or retrofitting existing buildings know they must abide by building codes that ensure safety and protect human health. Soon, they will also have to adhere to codes designed to protect the environment, conserve energy, and preserve natural resources. The International Code Council (ICC) recently launched the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) initiative, subtitled "Safe and Sustainable: By the Book." The IGCC aims to significantly reduce energy usage and greenhouse gases through mandatory green building design and performance in new and existing commercial buildings. It is also intended to preserve natural and material resources in site development and land use; improve indoor air quality; and support the use of energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy systems, and water resource conservation measures.

 
The new International Green Construction Code will help reduce energy use and greenhouse gases through mandatory green building design. 

Protecting the Environment

Unlike other building codes, which are intended to protect the public's health, safety, and welfare; this complementary green code is intended to help reduce a building's negative effect on the environment by setting minimum mandatory requirements. For example, in the code's current version, mandatory requirements include energy performance that is 30-percent better than the 2006 International Energy Construction Code and fixture and flow fitting rates that are a 20-percent improvement over the 2006 International Plumbing Code.

It is important to note that the IGCC will not supersede or take precedent over established sustainability rating systems, such as the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards. Rather, the new code will serve as an overlay to the existing International Building Codes and complement those existing standards or systems. The IGCC public comment version contains provisions for:

  • Site development and land use
  • Material resource conservation and efficiency
  • Energy conservation and earth atmospheric quality
  • Water resource conservation and efficiency
  • Indoor environmental quality and comfort
  • Commissioning, operation, and maintenance

Local Jurisdictions Determine Code Application

Both the IGCC and LEED rating program produce the same results and share similar categories, such as site, water, energy, materials, and indoor air quality. However, unlike LEED, which is voluntary and determined by the owner's level of commitment, the IGCC is intended to be part of the building code enforced by those local jurisdictions that adopt it, integrating with existing international building codes to create a new regulatory baseline for green construction.

A key feature is a section devoted to "jurisdictional electives" that will allow customization of the code - beyond its baseline provisions - to address local priorities and conditions. For instance, if local area has water problems, then a jurisdiction may elect for more strict water conservation measures. Project electives within the IGCC will be determined by the jurisdiction and range from 0 to 14, depending on the level of sustainability the jurisdiction is trying to achieve.

Who will be affected?

The IGCC applies to all occupancies, but does distinguish that residential occupancies shall comply with ICC 700 National Green Building Standard and that equipment and systems primarily used for industrial or manufacturing processes shall not comply with the code. Other than those two exceptions, the IGCC applies to the design, construction, addition, alteration, change of occupancy, movement, enlargement, replacement, and repair of buildings and structures and the site on which the building is located. Like all other I-codes, the code official has the authority to render the interpretation of the code and to adopt any policies and provisions in order to clarify the code.

Schedule

The IGCC is scheduled for final publication in early 2012. Currently, public version 1.0 was released on March 15, 2010, with the following key milestones:

  • Public version no. 2: November 2010
  • IGCC Code change submittal deadline: January 2011
  • IGCC Development hearing: May 2011
  • IGCC Final action hearing: November 2011
  • Final Release: Early 2012

What are the next steps?

Any interested organization or facility operator should review and provide input into current and future public versions and hearings. Those interested should also familiarize themselves with ASHRAE 189.1 standard (optional compliance path), and if familiar with LEED rating systems, then perform a comparison to the new IGCC. If you are considering new construction or retrofits, contact your code official to determine their view of the new green code in preparation of your future projects. It is important to recognize that this new code could affect your future project capital costs.

Be Informed

The IGCC is part of the International Building Code family and is being supported and developed by:

You can also visit cdmsmith.com/energy to learn more about CDM Smith's integrated energy management strategies.

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