Organizations Align To Simplify Green Building Regulations, Incentives

By Scott Kriner, Green Metal Consulting

Big news in the sustainable building industry was the recent announcement of a partnership among five organizations that have been involved in codes, standards and rating programs related to green or sustainable building practice. The announced partnership among the US Green Building Council (USGBC), ASHRAE, International Code Council (ICC), AIA, and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) is being touted as a step toward harmonizing and simplifying the implementation of green building regulations and incentives. The intentions are well-founded, but the details of the interaction among the five groups are just now being disclosed.

Estimates are that the new cooperative system will go into effect no sooner than 2017. The initial agreement will not extend to low-rise residential construction, although talks have already started to address residential programs in the future.

Each of the five organizations will remain separate and will continue to develop their own process for updated versions of their standards or programs. However to form a partnership among five unique organizations requires more than a simple agreement. The USGBC, ICC and ASHRAE will become three parts of one system. To help in the integration of the partnership USGBC, ASHRAE and IES will become sponsors of IgCC. AIA and ICC will become sponsors of ASHRAE standard 189.1. And to keep the partnership moving in the right direction a steering committee is being formed to guide the collaboration.

The baseline technical requirements of the new system will be provided by ASHRAE 189.1 Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. The Standard will maintain its ANSI consensus process for future changes. The technical requirements will be aligned with the prerequisites for future versions of LEED, and will also align themselves with the ICC’s International Green Construction Code (IgCC).

The IgCC will no longer be developed and updated as an independent code system. Instead, IgCC will become an adoptable and code enforceable version of ASHRAE 189.1. ASHRAE 189.1 is already an alternative compliance path for the IgCC code. But IgCC will also be considered an alternative system of prerequisites for LEED.

The USGBC’s LEED program will remain a separate voluntary green building certification program and their credits will be developed independently. The announcement of the new agreement suggested that some of the LEED requirements will move into the ASHRAE 189.1 Standard as new versions of LEED and ASHRAE 189.1 are developed.

USGBC sees the new partnership as a way to increase the number of green buildings, especially in regions where adopting a code is easier than complying with a voluntary rating program. In the case where a region adopts the IgCC code, any green building project in that region would automatically comply with the LEED prerequisites. USGBC also points out that this partnership framework is not restricted only to LEED. The same model could be used by other green building rating programs.

For years the green building industry has been confused and challenged over the complexity of the growing number of green regulations, codes, standards and voluntary programs in a variety of jurisdictions. This recent announcement is designed to ease some of that confusion in the future. The details of the recently announced partnership are at present somewhat confusing, but over time this will be worked out. With GREENBUILD 2014 coming up in October in New Orleans, there will likely be much more discussion on just what this new partnership really means to architects, designers, manufacturers, and building owners.

Scott Kriner is the president and founder of Green Metal Consulting Inc. He is a LEED Accredited Professional who began his career in the metal construction industry in 1981. His company is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the California Association of Building Energy Consultants and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).

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