Oregon creates green ‘reach code’

Aug. 1, 2011
SALEM, ORE. — The Oregon Building Codes Division has established a first of a kind green “Reach Code” in Oregon.

SALEM, ORE. — The Oregon Building Codes Division has established a first of a kind green “Reach Code” in Oregon. The rules implement a portion of Oregon Senate Bill 79, passed in 2009, requiring the adoption of a code, separate from the state building code that is a set of optional construction standards designed to increase the energy efficiency of buildings above the mandatory statewide building code.

The 2011 Oregon Reach Code (ORC) is based on the November 2010 International Green Construction Code public version 2.0 with Oregon specific amendments, including provisions from the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code and ASHRAE 90.1. The code became effective July 1, 2011. The rules also include portions of the water conservation requirements of the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials Green Plumbing & Mechanical Code Supplement.

The Reach Code Advisory Committee developed recommendations for the commercial provisions of the state’s Reach Code based on proposals submitted and the work of a technical sub-committee. The Oregon Commercial Reach Code is largely based on the second draft of the IGCC, a document co-developed by the U.S. Green Building Council; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers; American Institute of Architects, and the International Code Council.

The Building Codes Division stated that the IGCC is fundamentally LEED in code form — a comprehensive approach, focused on energy efficiency, based on current design best practice. However, based on the mandate in Senate Bill 79, the division recommended only retaining those sustainability provisions that could be related to decreasing the use of energy in constructing and operating commercial structures.

Because Oregon already uses ICC codes, it will provide predictability, the Building Codes Division pointed out; builders, code officials, legislators and the public will know well in advance some of the key provisions that the division will look to when updating the building codes.

“The IGCC is a glimpse of the direction that codes will take in the future,” the division said in prepared materials. “The Reach Code, based on the IGCC, can be both a testing ground and a classroom for the future of Oregon buildings, preparing the construction industry for future industry developments and code cycles.”

Because the IGCC is a comprehensive green code it contains elements related to energy efficiency that Oregon’s Energy Efficiency Specialty Code does not. However, the division was conscious of the energy focus of SB 79 and provisions solely related to green buildings were removed from consideration. While some of the remaining provisions are linked to energy use at the overall construction and operation of the building, the Reach Code is a code aimed at high performance buildings, not general sustainability.

Because the IGCC’s contributors are also the organizations behind LEED and other high performance and sustainability certifications, the IGCC has flexibility built into it in the form of project electives. Each project is required to select two project electives that then become a required element of construction. The Reach Code Advisory Committee has recommended 17 project electives from which a builder will be able to choose.

The Reach Code will be at the option of the builder when a structure is built, remodeled, or altered. The local jurisdiction must accept the method or product as the equivalent of the statewide code. Jurisdictions will not, however, be able to require that a builder utilize the Reach Code, but they may provide incentives to encourage its use. For the most part, plan review and inspection of a Reach Code building will be similar to that of a building constructed under the mandatory codes.

Chapter 6 contains the core energy efficiency provisions. It contains prescriptive requirements for commercial buildings of less than 70,000-sq.ft., unless they have a complex mechanical system as defined in the Oregon Energy Efficiency Specialty Code (OEESC). For buildings over 70,000-sq.ft., the chapter provides a Whole Building Approach for energy modeling to optimize building performance.

Chapter 6 requires that a building under 70,000-sq.ft., or 50,000-sq.ft. with a complex mechanical system, be capable of being metered to determine different types of energy use.

The committee recommendations include the opaque wall values from the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code and glazing values from ASHRAE 90.1–2010.

The committee has recommended provisions for functional performance testing of code-related systems to ensure that they operate as intended and “renewable ready” requirements to make future installations of renewable energy systems easier and cheaper. Solar hot water systems are included in the renewable energy provisions both as a “renewable ready” requirement and where actually installed as a project elective.

While a major focus of the Reach Code has been on making improvements to the building envelope, such as higher performing windows, Oregon officials recognized that water treatment, supply, and usage has a direct tie to energy. It takes electricity and fossil fuels to move water via pumps, to treat water and to address storm water.

The division and the code committee did not incorporate the IGCC’s plumbing provisions because Oregon adopts the IAPMO Uniform Plumbing Code. Division staff worked with IAPMO representatives to include provisions from the IAPMO Green Plumbing & Mechanical Code Supplement. These provisions will be included in the Appendix of the next Uniform Plumbing Code and generally forecast possible future UPC provisions. The plumbing provisions in Chapter 7 include a formula for calculating water savings. The division noted that its rationale is that including the provisions of the IAPMO Green Plumbing & Mechanical Code Supplement will help the division maintain compatibility between the state’s mandatory plumbing code and the voluntary Reach Code.

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