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Building green: International Green Construction Code

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Last week’s publication of the 2012 International Green Construction Code (IgCC) marks a major milestone in sustainable design, construction, and operations, as we shift from an incentive-based approach toward a regulatory one.

While current building codes were developed to protect life and safety of present building occupants, the IgCC expands its purview to protect the environment on behalf of the wider community, both present and future.  This new overlay code builds on current systems of voluntary design guidelines and goals, moving toward mandatory adherence to principles of sustainable design and construction.

It appears that the impact of IgCC on the design and construction community will be significant. While the architects, engineers and builders have gained a working knowledge of a broad range of sustainable building features through the burgeoning use of LEED certification, many previously voluntary criteria will take on a greater importance as they become mandatory under the IgCC.  The fact that individual jurisdictions may enforce different sets of elective provisions will necessitate careful examination of local requirements.

Building owners, contractors, and code enforcement officers are likely to face an even greater challenge to the way they view buildings.  IgCC addresses the fact that one of the principal values of sustainable design and construction rests in the improvement in building performance in terms of energy use, water use, and durability.  Compliance pathways within IgCC require performance modeling, commissioning and life cycle assessment.  Building owners may need to engage professional services that extend beyond completion of construction, as well as become more involved in meeting requirements for operations and maintenance.

Expansion of the scope of code requirements throughout the life cycle of a building will ultimately be of benefit to the wider community.  As architects, we are in a position to offer a vision that will help the entire construction community move through the complications of new regulations to embrace a more sustainable future.

- Greta Eckhardt

Greta Eckhardt, AIA, LEED AP leads the specifications department at Shepley Bulfinch.

2012 IgCC information and overviews – ICC website

2012 IgCC synopsis – AIA website

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