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July/August 2010

Standards Play a Leading Role in Green Construction

A Broad Partnership Leads to the International Green Construction Code

Through a widely collaborative effort, the International Code Council and cooperating sponsors, including ASTM International, have developed a consensus-based model green construction code.

In June 2009, the International Green Construction Code initiative was launched with the goal of creating a green building code that would lead to safer, more sustainable building practices in the United States and globally. The International Code Council, in conjunction with its cooperating sponsors, the American Institute of Architects and ASTM International, as well as the ICC Sustainable Building Technology Committee and a host of work groups, worked to ensure that Public Version 1.0 of the IGCC, released this March, comprehensively addressed the issues of safety and sustainability. This year, the ICC/AIA/ASTM team was joined by new co-sponsors: the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, the U.S. Green Building Council and the Illuminating Engineering Society.

“All of our partners played a vital role in bringing the IGCC to life and providing the essential perspectives of the design and standards communities,” says ICC CEO Rick Weiland. “The expertise these organizations brought to the IGCC make it a solid code that is adoptable and enforceable for communities across the country and globally. We talked to communities who indicated their voluntary green building programs reach only, but an important, 30 percent of the built environment. This means there is a clear need for a regulatory tool to establish a baseline to help jurisdictions meet their sustainability goals.”

The Green Code Goals

To kick off the IGCC initiative last year, a committee representing the diverse viewpoints of industry leaders and organizations, including ASTM International, was formed. It was critically important that standards expertise played a role on the team in order to ensure a process-driven result. The ICC and its partners formed the 29-member Sustainable Building Technology Council to help develop the IGCC. The SBTC created work groups that included individuals with specific expertise in various areas such as water use, renewable energy, land use, construction, architecture and building inspection. Committee members came from a wide variety of backgrounds — from government and industry to nonprofits and academia — to help create a consensus-based model code.

The IGCC complements the existing International codes and provides a baseline that negates the need for the creation of so-called homegrown codes. The code provides a road map that jurisdictions can use to immediately incorporate green components into existing or developing building codes. Jurisdictions also can customize the code to address local priorities and conditions with the code’s project electives.

The IGCC is intended to serve several roles within the marketplace as it relates to building codes, standards and ratings systems, and creating a comprehensive approach to green building. In addition to providing 11 chapters and two appendices guiding green construction, the IGCC also will reference the ANSI (American National Standards Institute)/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2009 for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, as an alternative jurisdictional compliance option.

The building code is only one part of the IGCC, which also recognizes the need for professional development in a building community that needs to understand all of the nuances of the IGCC. Building owner education is emphasized in the code so that the best energy-efficient practices are maintained after construction is complete.

IGCC Public Review

Public Version 1.0 of the IGCC was released on March 15 and remained open for public comment until May 14. During that time, ICC heard from hundreds of members and other stakeholders, including building and fire officials, Americans with Disabilities Act coordinators, structural engineers, plan reviewers and others. The comments will be incorporated into the next set of code revisions, which will include public hearings to be held this August in Chicago, Ill. ICC is encouraging individuals from all building-related sectors to participate by developing and submitting code change proposals to help make the first edition of the IGCC, to be published in 2012, as complete and up-to-date as possible.

“Thousands of code officials and interested parties have downloaded the document since it debuted in March,” says Michael Armstrong, senior vice president of membership and outreach at ICC. “We are reading submitted public comments and are learning what the code means to their jurisdictions. The public response and demand for sustainable construction has led the industry, municipalities and state officials from across America to actively work on adopting Public Version 1.0 in advance of the final version, which will be released in 2012. Rhode Island is poised to adopt the IGCC after all public comments and code change proposals are submitted. Other states such as Oregon and Washington are looking closely at the IGCC. I’m sure many more states as well as local jurisdictions will follow in the months and years to come.”

In the end, the IGCC will provide an efficient way for safe and sustainable building practices to gain greater traction in the marketplace. The beneficiaries of this new code will be the millions of developers, owners, occupants and neighbors of commercial structures, both old and new, that will be the lasting evidence of this new chapter in green construction.

Laura Taylor, International Code Council Green Media Consultant, Gaia Group PR LLC, Alexandria, Va., currently assists ICC with efforts to draw attention to the important role that the IGCC will play in safe and sustainable construction. She can be contacted at and