New green codes are powerful tools

April 12, 2010
The International Green Construction Code is the first and only construction code that establishes code requirements for a minimum level of sustainable design in commercial buildings. This makes implementing green building practices much easier and, simply by following the IGCC, makes it much simpler to achieve green rating points.

Developed by the International Code Council and the cooperating sponsorship of the American Institute of Architects and ASTM International, the highly anticipated Public Version 1.0 of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) offers many exclusive benefits for plumbing, mechanical and fuel gas professionals. But when the IGCC was augmented with ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IEC Standard 189.1, the result is a green construction code that far and away offers the most extensive and superior sustainable building provisions.

Released on March 15, the International Green Construction Code is the first and only construction code that establishes code requirements for a minimum level of sustainable design in commercial buildings. This makes implementing green building practices much easier and, simply by following the IGCC, makes it much simpler to achieve green rating points.

This new green code is based on the same clear, easy-to-use sequence that makes the International Codes the most accepted code adoption platform in the U.S. The IGCC is the most complete and effective code for alternative water sources and encompasses the latest alternative energy sources for ever greater sustainable design.

The addition of ASHRAE Standard 189.1’s provisions offers an alternative jurisdictional requirement for water, energy and every other major sustainable design application for commercial buildings. This provides even more flexibility for jurisdictions and builders alike. This standard complements the IGCC with code-minimum language and mature sustainability provisions developed by using a robust ANSI-approved consensus process.

Partnership of industry leaders
The combined codes were developed by a partnership of many noted industry organizations: The International Code Council, the American Institute of Architects, ASTM International, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration & Air-Conditioning Engineers, the U.S. Green Building Council and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. The cumulative expertise that went into the development of these codes has resulted in the most comprehensive green code available.

The IGCC is fully integrated with all of the International Codes, many applications for which are included in the International Building Code, International Energy Conservation Code and International Residential Code. This makes implementing and enforcing it much more efficient and effective since most jurisdictions in the U.S. that adopt codes use the I-Codes.

Leading the green charge.
Since many green applications relate to water and energy efficiency, provisions in the IGCC supporting these resource conservation measures are extensive and perfectly complement those already referenced in the International Plumbing Code and International Mechanical Code.
In fact, the IGCC uses the 2009 International Plumbing Code as a baseline for many of the plumbing-related provisions.

A summary of the topics covered by the IGCC’s key water conservation and alternative water provisions include:

  • Rainwater, graywater and other non-potable water systems, including municipally-supplied reclaimed water;
  • Water treatment devices and equipment, like water softeners and reverse osmosis units;
  • Non-potable water use for toilet and urinal flushing, trap priming, irrigation, fire suppression and water features;
  • 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, layout, and insulation;
  • Landscape irrigation and other site water use, including xeriscaping, turf, landscaping, non-potable water use, and storm water management;
  • Car washing systems;
  • Recreational water uses such as pools, spas, and ornamental water features;
  • Performance-based system for water conservation in plumbing fixtures while also offering designers greater flexibility in selecting the right devices for their projects.

Highlights related to energy conservation, efficiency and atmospheric quality include:

  • Renewable energy systems, such as wind turbines, biogas, solar thermal and photovoltaic cells, as well as alternative energy technologies such as geothermal heating, energy recovery and management control systems;
  • Greenhouse gas and energy use reductions through improved building performance, including measurement and verification of design;
  • Energy use and atmospheric impacts, such as improved indoor air quality that limit VOCs and improve ventilation techniques and thresholds;
  • Energy metering, monitoring and reporting to ensure that savings can be documented and sustained for the life of the building;
  • Automated demand response infrastructure to make buildings smarter and responsive to users and the environment
  • Integrated enhancements to building envelope, mechanical systems, service water heating, and electrical power and lighting systems to ensure that savings in one area don’t cause increases in energy use in another;
  • Specific appliances and equipment building on well-known programs like EnergyStar;
  • Mechanical systems commissioning assures that systems perform as required from the beginning.

Sustainable design is here to stay
The Code Council is certain that sustainable design and the codes that support it are not a passing phase, but a trend that will continue to evolve and mature. This will naturally result in the integration of green applications into standard construction practices. It will soon become second nature to implement greener plumbing, mechanical and other energy- and resource-saving measures. The IGCC is a great start towards ever-improving sustainable building design.

The International Green Construction Code is an exciting new addition to the extensive sustainable design provisions the Code Council has developed over the past several years — and with many in development and planned for future publication — all of which are designed to help building professionals build for stronger, safer and smarter communities and our planet.

Visit the IGCC page on ICC’s website ( to learn more about this exciting new code and its PMG sections. You can also download a free version of the IGCC via a link on this page.

The International Code Council publishes building safety, energy efficiency and fire prevention codes that are used in the construction of residential and commercial buildings. The ICC’s Plumbing, Mechanical and Fuel Gas (PMG) Group is devoted exclusively to providing PMG products and support to jurisdictions and construction industry professionals across the country and around the globe, with one or more PMG codes adopted in 49 states. The more than 200 products and related services were developed specifically by and for plumbing and mechanical professionals. Contact the PMG Group for additional information at 888/ICC-SAFE, ext. 4PMG, [email protected], or visit

Jay Peters is executive director for the International Code Council’s Plumbing, Mechanical and Fuel Gas Group.

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