As I See It

Will IGCC become a green code juggernaut?

The competitive folks at the International Code Council are hoping that their International Green Construction Code becomes so dominant that it marginalizes any competition. As ICC notes, their green code is easy for a state or municipality to adopt because the green code flows into the International Plumbing Code, the International Mechanical Code and those flow seamlessly into their structural codes, such as the International Residential Code. There's no need for Anytown USA to cobble together a plumbing code from one place and a structural code from another.

In light of that competitive code issue, it was a savvy move for the ICC to put together what Jay Peters, the executive director of the ICC's Plumbing, Mechanical & Fuel Gas Group, characterizes as exclusive agreements with the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers. As we reported here on March 15, ASHRAE, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and the U.S. Green Building Council joined ICC at its Washington headquarters, as they and their co-authors, the American Institute of Architects and the American Society for Testing Materials, launched the IGCC.

A key part of that deal is that ASHRAE agreed to roll in its Standard 189.1, Standard for the Design of High Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, as an alternate path of compliance. Standard 189.1 is a set of technically rigorous requirements, which like the IGCC, covers criteria including water use efficiency, indoor environmental quality, energy efficiency, materials and resource use, and the building’s impact on its site and its community.

But on top of that, BuildingGreen.com reported March 15 that California might align its green code with the IGCC.

The Web site reported then:

"A third influential green code, California’s Green Building Standards Code, or 'Calgreen,' is not officially part of this marriage, but state officials tout the use of Calgreen as a reference doc for the IGCC. Dave Walls, executive director of the California Building Standards Commission, participated on the IGCC committee. Informally, conversations are underway about including Calgreen in the alignment effort, according to [Brendan] Owens, [vice president for LEED technical development at the U.S. Green Building Council]."

Whoa, slow down, amigo. For one thing, the IGCC is just out for its initial public comment. And, second, I'm always suspicious of a third party saying that somebody else is going to do something, so I called Walls in Sacramento.

“From a California perspective, we believe in uniformity and consistency,” Walls told me. “I was on the committee for the development of the IGCC, but it’s way too premature to tell. The IGCC is just out for the 45-day comment period. If it’s possible, we believe in using national codes where we can. So when it’s done, then we’ll take a look at it.”

Sounds like a some-time-in-the-future-maybe.

In the meantime, I know that ICC's rivals over at the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials are not going to stand still. They've told me what they're doing, but I can't say what until they announce it some time in late Spring. In addition, IAPMO's Green Plumbing & Mechanical Supplement may not be a supplement for much longer. One of the agenda items for IAPMO's code meetings in Milwaukee at the end of April is to incorporate substantial chunks of the Supplement's provisions into the Uniform Plumbing Code and Uniform Mechanical Code. Water and energy conservation just become standard operating procedure, not an add-on or an option.

This green code competition is a great thing. All indications are that 2010 will continue to be a challenging year, but there will be business to be found in the green space. Green is good for contractors, good for progressive manufacturers, and it saves customers water, energy and money. Let's keep it going.