The 2012 International Green Construction Code was just announced this week by the International Code Council – and it intends to be the first holistic code based on environmentally positive design. Rather than focusing on a few tweaks like traditional codes, the IgCC 2012 looks at a project’s entire system performance and breaks down specific details for compliance. The Green Code’s intent is to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste, and improve health — goals that its development co-partner the USGBC has been holding up as a mantle for years.
Rick Fedrizzi, President of the USGBC, once proclaimed that his job was to help standardize green building to the point where the USGBC could disband. He is getting one step closer to his wish, as the new Green Code is even more stringent in terms of energy performance than the USGBC’s targets a few years ago. The new code incorporates features of the LEED system and goes beyond older LEED requirements by adding ASHREA 189.1 (an important new energy standard) as a compliance path. The Green Code improves energy efficiency by 30% from 2007 code and details very specific design guidelines on how to put buildings together for efficiency. The AIA has also endorsed the code, with AIA President Jeff Potter stating “The IgCC is a tool that, when adopted nationwide by states and communities, will create a path for the United States to follow in cutting energy use in one of its biggest energy consumers – commercial buildings.”
The new code also tackles water reduction and grey water, ventilation system design, and most importantly, it tracks measures which improve a building’s thermal envelope. Some LEED buildings have missed their energy goals, and a big reason is because neither LEED nor code looked closely at wall assemblies, windows, and doors. HVAC equipment efficiency is also boosted, which also now includes a section on evaporative coolers.
A popular saying in the field of green building construction is that current code allows for the worst building you can build legally. Hopefully, as local jurisdictions adopt the new Green Code standard, the pressure will be on for green builders to raise the bar even higher. For the rest of the buildings, the code means that users and owners won’t be saddled with heavy energy bills due to poor design and construction.