Volume 12, Issue 6 - July/August 2011

WDMA Update

Under Construction
A Quick Snapshot of the International Green Construction Code
by Jeff Inks

Among the many twists and turns in the rapid evolution of green building codes, standards, guidelines and rating systems, the International Code Council’s (ICC) International Green Construction Code (IgCC) is forging yet another alternative for the construction of green buildings.

As with other green construction documents, the IgCC is intended to supplement existing construction codes and, as an I-code, is being coordinated with ICC’s existing suite of construction codes. It is important to note that the IgCC is not a green building rating system. ICC is promoting the adoption of it as a mandatory minimum requirement or as a voluntary option by state and local jurisdictions, in addition to their existing codes. As such, the IgCC is the latest entrant in the growing competition for which codes, standards and rating systems will be adopted by jurisdictions nationwide.

Will It Affect Residential?
The first official edition is still under development and slated to be completed and available for adoption by state and local jurisdictions next spring, so many of the provisions included in it are in a state of flux, and to an extent some controversy, including the scope of the buildings it is intended to cover. While the draft released for public comment last fall scoped in all construction (except for one- and two-family homes and townhomes three stories or less in height) WDMA’s proposal to exclude all residential occupancies three stories or less in height was approved at the ICC’s first round of public hearings on proposed amendments held in May. If that is upheld at the final action hearings, the scope of the first edition will exclude those residential occupancies.

WDMA submitted the proposal because ICC’s National Green Building Standard (ICC 700 NGBS) already covers those occupancies. We also want to make the IgCC’s scope more consistent with how provisions of ICC’s International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings (ASHRAE 189.1), and LEED rating systems are applied to residential construction.

What Makes It Different?
Though final decisions on the scope and other provisions have yet to be made, the IgCC almost assuredly will include provisions that will distinguish it among its peer green building standards and guidelines. Among them are what ICC is promoting as an innovative new concept for jurisdictional and building owner flexibility by allowing jurisdictions to select from a menu of options for additional mandatory requirements as well as specifying a number of “project electives.”

Development of the IgCC has not been without some controversy. Among the more contentious debates is the fact that IgCC allows jurisdictions to opt for the use of ASHRAE 189.1 for all technical requirements in lieu of those in the IgCC. Many stakeholders are advocating that if that option is to remain, that decision should be left to building owners. Provisions for building service life plans and life cycle assessments (LCA) also are highly controversial.

How Will It Affect Fenestration?
To more narrowly focus on the impact this code could or will have on doors, windows and skylights, the IgCC includes what have become mainstay green requirements for the composition of building materials, enhanced energy performance and indoor environmental quality. For instance, the IgCC will likely require that 55 percent of building materials used comply with any combination of requirements for used, recycled, recyclable and bio-based materials. The IgCC also is helping to foster the acceptance and inclusion of requirements for whole buildings and building materials to demonstrate their environmental impacts through LCAs. Ultimately that may be among the most significant impacts on doors, windows and skylights. WDMA currently is opposed to mandatory requirements for LCAs because their use is not yet well-founded, though support for such requirements is growing.

Any action that receives a public comment will be reconsidered at the IgCC final action hearings scheduled for November 2-6 in Phoenix. From that standpoint, exactly what will be included in the first edition and what won’t is still somewhat anyone’s guess.

Jeff Inks serves as vice president, codes and regulatory affairs, for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association.


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