ICC works on prescriptive green construction code

The International Code Council has launched an International Green Construction Code initiative with the intent to reduce energy usage and the carbon footprint of commercial buildings. Entitled “IGCC: Safe and Sustainable By the Book,” the initiative is committed to develop a model code focused on new and existing commercial buildings.

WASHINGTON — The International Code Council has launched an International Green Construction Code initiative with the intent to reduce energy usage and the carbon footprint of commercial buildings. Entitled “IGCC: Safe and Sustainable By the Book,” the initiative is committed to develop a model code focused on new and existing commercial buildings.

Code Council Board President Adolf Zubia said the Code Council's development timeline will include public meetings of the Sustainable Building Technology Committee, a public comment period on the Committee's initial draft, and a final draft that will be made available in 2010 as a resource document before it moves through the development hearing and final action hearing stages.

According to Jay Peters, executive director, Plumbing, Mechanical & Fuel Gas for the International Code Council, the ICC green code will cover water conservation issues such as:

  • Fixtures, fittings and appliances, including faucets, toilets, urinals, dishwashers, washing machines, pre-rinse spray valves, showers and drinking fountains.
  • Hot water delivery system design, including pipe sizing and insulation.
  • Reclaimed water use and systems, including municipally reclaimed water, onsite water recycling systems, rainwater catchment systems, condensate capture systems, foundation drain-water reclamation systems, and dual plumbing considerations and requirements.
  • Landscape and site water use to include xeriscaping, turf, landscaping, and storm water management.
  • Recreational water such as pools, spas, ornamental water features and water parks.

“The International Green Construction Code will provide the PMG industry, especially installers and inspectors, a tool that is understandable and simple to use,” Peters said. “It is not a rating system or a complicated method of trade-offs, but a prescriptive method to design, install and inspect these systems. Like following any plumbing code, it is in simple language that prescribes each facet of the installation. It is being coordinated with all of the International Codes already in place so, when adopted, it won't require extra amending, correlating and editing.

“For example,” Peters continued, “the International Energy Conservation Code is the most widely adopted energy code in the country and is slated for nationwide adoption as per the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, yet other codes, standards or supplements contain energy and mechanical code provisions that are sure to duplicate or, even worse, conflict with the most widely adopted codes.”

One code with which ICC's Green Construction Code is likely to conflict is the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials Green Plumbing and Mechanical Supplement, which is being developed as an adjunct to the Uniform Plumbing Code and the Uniform Mechanical Code. IAPMO's green supplement is to be published early next year.

“It's another positive step forward in the area of sustainability,” said John Koeller, Koeller & Co., Yorba Linda, Calif., and a member of IAPMO's Green Technical Committee. “However, on the downside, the proliferation of codes, specifications, standards, guidelines, regulatory mandates, and similar initiatives throughout North America is largely unnecessary and is killing us all. Wasting human resources reinventing the wheel can actually stifle some very good intentions in many cases. In addition, too many of these ‘green' directives don't even line up with one another and, in some rare cases, actually encourage wasteful designs and practices! This is definitely not a condemnation of either the ICC or the IAPMO green codes, which in themselves are very important contributions to improving the built environment. Rather, these are general observations of the dozens upon dozens of initiatives that seem to fully surround and overtake us.

“I am not saying initiatives pointed at sustainability aren't necessary,” Koeller continued, “just that there are too many of them in conflict with one another. A half dozen or so ‘templates' of green construction would be sufficient to cover all types of new construction and be regionally specific as well.”

The number of green codes that are popping up can be confusing, said consulting engineer Tom Meyer, principal, Praxis Green, Neenah, Wis., the founding executive director of the Green Mechanical Council.

Meyer also sits on the IAPMO Green Technical Committee. Some of it seems like jumping on the bandwagon, he said.

“For better or for worse, there will always be ‘competitors' like ICC and IAPMO, LEED and Green Globes,” said Meyer. “Do we need another green code? Good question. Personally, I think we need one good green code that makes sense. I don't see that happening.”

Bill Erickson, chairman of C.J. Erickson Plumbing, Alsip, Ill., and chairman of IAPMO's GTC, said the strength of IAPMO's code supplement is the ANSI standard consensus process.

“The big difference, as a practitioner, that I see between the IAPMO green code and the ICC code is the consensus process, plain and simple,” Erickson said. “At IAPMO we have documents and we have proof that over 85 of the best of the best are involved in making our green supplement. The people who are on the Green Technical Committee are people who are actively involved in the industry, whether it's in engineering, inspection or installation. On the ICC green code committee there are three. That, in itself, I feel makes our code supplement more viable because of the consensus process, which IAPMO has done forever. Will the ICC green code be a good document? Sure. But will it be a consensus document? I don't know.“

The ICC standard has a broader scope and might compete more with ASHRAE Standard 189 Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, Erickson said.

“As a practitioner, as a contractor, we are trying to give the customer the best product we can in order to continually protect public health and safety,” Erickson said. “I personally think the UPC and UMC do that better than the International Code Council does.”

Peters, however is confident that the ICC's document will be popular and widely accepted.

“It is anticipated that most jurisdictions that are making efforts towards sustainable construction will utilize the IGCC based on the high interest and participation we are receiving during the development process,” Peters said. “We held meetings and listened closely to the industry long before the decision to create the code. The overwhelming theme that resulted from the discussions was the industry's desire to have a simple prescriptive method or ‘how to' process that is not only easy to follow and understand, but must meet the guidelines of the popular green building rating systems.”