By Christopher E. Chwedyk, CSI, AIA
A funny thing happened on the way to an impending battle between opposing Green Building codes and standards: the two main opponents joined forces.
In January of this year, after a tumultuous, four-year development process that included the disbanding and reorganization of the committee charged with its creation, the long-awaited ASHRAE Standard 189.1-2009, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, the first ever code-enforceable green building standard in the nation was approved and published. Developed by American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), and modeled on LEED, the standard addresses site sustainability, water use efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality (IEQ), and the building’s impact on the atmosphere, materials and resources. These five subject areas, as well as requirements for construction and high-performance operation, are each addressed in separate sections. Requirements for construction and operation plans – including the commissioning process, building acceptance testing, measurement and verification, and reporting of energy use, water use and indoor air quality – are also specified to assist building owners in achieving high performance operation. By some measures, Standard 189.1 could lead to site energy savings of between 10 and 34 percent over the ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007, based on the minimum prescriptive recommendations of the new standard – and possibly even higher.
Hot on their heels, in a remarkably swift nine-month development process, the International Code Council (ICC) released its own International Green Construction Code (IgCC) on March 15th. Developed in partnership with The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and ASTM International, the IgCC had been anticipated to compete directly with Standard 189. Instead, all six associations stood together to support IgCC’s launch at the press conference launching the public-comment version. Rather than challenging Standard 189, IgCC has now included it as an alternate compliance path as a first step to greater integration, connecting it to ICC’s vast code network that reaches all 50 states and 22,000 local jurisdictions.
ICC began developing its green code last Summer, after realizing that some jurisdictions that would normally use their codes were pretty much stuck making up Green codes on their own, because they had no model code language to work from. While the IgCC’s effort was playing catch-up with Standard 189 and, apparently, aiming to compete with it, many of the same technical experts were actually involved with both efforts. Concern had developed that this parallel effort was leading up to an unnecessary choice for jurisdictions: either pick the ASHRAE standard or pick IgCC.
Remembering that the ICC was initially formed more than fifteen years ago as a result of mounting concerns about what competing codes do from a regulatory perspective, this is not a surprising move on their part. Inconsistency in codes from one community to another has long complicated the work of designers and contractors, and competing options could easily have bogged down the entire Green code adoption process in many state and local jurisdictions. Years of fighting have been avoided as a result in this pact.
The relationship between the two publications will likely be not unlike that of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and ASHRAE Standard 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, which date as far back as the 1980′s when they were known as the Model Energy Code (MEC) and Standard 90A. Both were and still are separate, stand-alone publications. When ASHRAE 90A became 90.1, it was, for a time, the leading standard for energy requirements in the U.S. and was frequently adopted by reference in state and local jurisdictions. With the advent of the International Codes, however, it became much more likely to see the IECC be adopted – as part of the “International Code Family” that includes and works with the ICC building, fire, property maintenance codes. With 90.1 included as an alternative compliance method within the IECC, both publications have thrived.
Version 1.0 of IgCC is currently available on the ICC website for download and possible adoption by state and local governments, after coming out of a committee process that included open public meetings and hearings. At the same time, ICC is just starting a public comment process, with a first round of comments open until May 14, 2010. Public hearings are scheduled for August, and the planned release of version 2 is in November 2010. That version will stand until the 2012 code updates are released, at which point ICC will promote and manage the evolution of the IgCC alongside its other International Codes.
While Standard 189 is now an option within the IgCC, there are significant differences between the two. However, the public comment process will provide an opportunity to increase their alignment. ASHRAE will actually be submitting certain sections of the 189 for consideration by IgCC, according to one source. Over time, all parties expect the two documents to influence and grow together.
A third influential green code, California’s Green Building Standards Code, or “Calgreen,” is not officially part of this union, but state officials have pointed to the use of Calgreen as one of the reference doc’s for the IgCC. Dave Walls, executive director of the California Building Standards Commission, participated on the IgCC committee. According to Owens, informal conversations may be underway about including Calgreen in the alignment effort.
State and local jurisdictions still have the option of adopting part or all of Standard 189, or the IgCC into their codes and regulations. However, Standard 189 covers areas that can affect a communities’ zoning regulations in addition to their building codes, so adopting it wholesale would take some cross-departmental collaboration. Regardless of the complexities, the partnership with IgCC gives Standard 189 a huge boost in the code adoption process, and it can be expected that Green codes will move forward nationwide much more quickly than anyone previously thought.
About the Author:
Christopher E. Chwedyk, AIA, CSI is a licensed architect, Director and Chief Code Consultant of The Code Group at Burnham Nationwide in Chicago. He was previously the principal of Gage-Babcock and Associates; a firm specialized in fire protection engineering. With 33 years of experience in the architectural field, Mr. Chwedyk has performed numerous code compliance plan reviews for the City of Chicago and other municipalities. An adjunct faculty member of Harper College since 1998, Chris teaches courses on building codes and construction drawings.