Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April is Beancounter Month

It's the month of reckoning in the USA: taxes, filings and that great exchange between citizens and their local financial and accounting professionals. The only sure thing in life, death and taxes. And yet another element of coming to account has been laid on the table: a unified building code for sustainable practices in the USA and its properties and projects abroad, the 2012 International Green Construction Code. This is a mandatory model code which will be adopted throughout the country that supersedes a myriad collection of voluntary and local "green" standards, including the LEED standard. This overlay code came about because of the need for a common standard that complies with the requirements in the US and abroad for a means of requiring energy and water conservation and carbon reduction. As the American Institute of Architects puts it, this is a game-changer for the USA and the global community.

The International Code Council is an industry organization that writes and establishes the model codes (IBC) adopted in 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, NYC, Guam, and the Northern Marianas Islands. It has just issued the new IgCC for adoption by all jurisdictions. It's the response by the building industry to create a common groundwork that attempts to reduce the impact of the built environment on ecosystems by requiring green strategies to be implemented throughout the country.

The IgCC is the first model code that includes sustainability measures for the entire construction project and its site from design through construction, certificate of occupancy and beyond. The new code is expected to make buildings more efficient, reduce waste, and have a positive impact on health, safety and community welfare. The IgCC creates a regulatory framework for new and existing buildings, establishing minimum green requirements for buildings and complementing voluntary rating systems which may extend beyond the customizable baseline of the IgCC. The code acts as an overlay to the existing set of International Codes, including provisions of the International Energy Conservation Code and ICC-700, the National Green Building Standard, and incorporates ASHRAE Standard 189.1 as an alternate path to compliance. Adoption of this code is already going forward in jurisdictions that want to benchmark the attributes of sustainable construction, rather than trying to cope with many kinds of certifications, products and processes.

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.

This model code is the new consensus measure of sustainability throughout the USA, and is another step forward in the recognition that the entire industry must be responsible in the development of the built environment and focus on preservation of natural resources and processes, as opposed to the old dinosaur model of burning up our resources beyond the planet's ability to support human activities.