Volume 48, Issue 11- November 2013

Energy & Environment

Green Systems, Codes and Standards Play Different Roles in Efficiency

They are at times confused and often misapplied, but Michael Schmeida says that green building systems, codes and standards each have a role to play in making America more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly.

Schmeida, the vice chair for the ASTM International E60 Sustainability program and Oatey’s corporate manager for stewardship with compliance and regulatory oversight, says green codes have different roles in working toward the day when the nation’s buildings have little to no effect on the environment.

“Over time, what is in [the systems and codes] today will trickle down to the standards of tomorrow,” he said. “All the systems are driving the codes, eventually leading to zero impact on the environment.”

Reaching that goal will become all the more critical in the future, Schmeida said, given a global population that is expected to increase by 2 to 3 billion by 2050. The greater numbers will lead to an increased demand for both energy and food, meaning that sustainable development – meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future to meet its needs – is critical.

Schmeida cited the newest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system as a welcome step toward the desired end. Passed in June, LEED v4 is the most comprehensive to date and takes effect this month during the Greenbuild Expo in Philadelphia.

LEED v4 is among a number of systems that require third-party reviews and define achievement through a complex ratings system. Others include Green Globes and Energy Star.

Codes, which are set laws with little flexibility, often are driven by the systems and can be very effective when implemented properly.

Two green code examples include the California Green Building Standards Code (CGBSC) and the International Green Construction Code (IGCC). Better known as CalGreen, CGBSC was the nation’s first mandatory green building code. It provided strict guidelines for energy efficiency, water efficiency and conservation, material conservation and resource efficiency, environmental quality and more. Its provisions applied to an array of new buildings, including commercial, low-rise residential and public schools.

The IGCC became the first code to include sustainability measures for the entire construction project and its site – from design through construction, certification of occupancy and beyond, according to Schmeida. A new code is expected to make buildings more efficient, reduce waste and have a positive impact on health, safety and community welfare.

Schmeida said there are more than 220 different standards, all of which serve just a rudimentary baseline and that few have possibility of enforcement or inspection to give them any real teeth. He was adamant, however, that current green building systems and codes would not exist without ASTM standards, most of which have been adopted in many federal, state and municipal government regulations by either incorporation or by reference.

Schmeida said educating the public about the need for sustainability and high costs still pose challenges, but he sounded optimistic.

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