Effective Use of the International Green Construction Code

  • The International Green Construction CodeTM (IgCCTM) is a model code that provides minimum requirements to safeguard the environment, public health, safety and general welfare through the establishment of requirements that are intended to reduce the negative impacts and increase the positive impacts of the built environment on the natural environment and building occupants. The IgCC is fully compatible with the ICC family of codes, including the International Building Code® (IBC®), the International Code Council Performance Code® (ICCPC®), the International Energy Conservation Code® (IECC®), the International Existing Building Code® (IEBC®), the International Fire Code® (IFC®), the International Fuel Gas Code® (IFGC®), the International Mechanical Code® (IMC®), the International Plumbing Code® (IPC®), the International Private Sewage Disposal Code® (IPSDC®), the International Property Maintenance Code® (IPMC®), the International Residential Code® (IRC®), the International Swimming Pool and Spa CodeTM (ISPSCTM), the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code® (IWUIC®), and the International Zoning Code® (IZC®).

    The IgCC addresses natural resource, material, water and energy conservation, as well as indoor environmental quality and comfort, building commissioning, operations and maintenance for new and existing buildings, building sites and building materials, components, equipment and systems. The code will be promulgated on a 3-year cycle to allow for new construction methods and technologies to be incorporated into the code. Innovative approaches and alternative materials, designs, and methods not specifically addressed in the code can be approved by the code official where the proposed innovative approaches or materials, designs or methods comply with the intent of the provisions of the code (see Section 105.4).

    The IgCC applies to all occupancies other than temporary structures approved under Section 3103 of the International Building Code, except that application to the following is subject to jurisdictional choices in Table 302.1: one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses that are within the scope of the International Residential Code; Group R-3 occupancies; and Group R-2 and R-4 residential occupancies that are four stories or less in height.

    Arrangement and Format of the 2012 IgCC

    Before applying the requirements of the IgCC, it is beneficial to understand its arrangement and format.

    1-2Administration and definitions
    3Jurisdictional requirements and life cycle assessment
    4Site development and land use
    5Material resource conservation and efficiency
    6Energy conservation, efficiency and CO2e emission reduction
    7Water resource conservation, quality and efficiency
    8Indoor environmental quality and comfort
    9Commissioning, operation and maintenance
    10Existing buildings
    11Existing building site development
    12Referenced standards
    Appendix AProject electives
    Appendix BRadon mitigation
    Appendix COptional ordinance
    Appendix DEnforcement procedures

    The following is a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the scope and intent of the provisions of the International Green Construction Code:

    Chapter 1 Scope and Administration. Chapter 1 of the IgCC establishes the limits of applicability of the code and describes the manner in which the code is to be applied and enforced. Chapter 1 is divided into two parts: Part 1 – Scope and Application (Sections 101 and 102); and Part 2 – Administration and Enforcement (Sections 103 109).

    Section 101 identifies which buildings and structures come under its purview and Section 102 references other ICC codes as applicable. Section 103 establishes the duties and powers of the code official, requires that compliance and enforcement be part of the enforcement of other ICC codes listed in Section 102.4, and grants authority to the code official to make inspections. Section 105 provides guidance to the code official in the approval of materials, methods of construction, designs, systems and innovative approaches where they are not specifically prescribed in the IgCC. Section 106, in conjunction with Section 101.2 as an overlay code, requires that permits be issued under other ICC codes.

    The provisions of Chapter 1 also establish the rights and privileges of the design professional, contractor and property owner.

    It is important to note that by reference to Section 301.1.1 , Section 101.3 allows ASHRAE 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, to be used. In addition, Exception 1 to Section 101.3 notes that the code is not applicable to low-rise residential structures unless the jurisdiction selects ICC 700 in Table 302.1 for application to various types of residential buildings and occupancies. Further, ICC 700 is noted in Section 101.3.1 as being a “deemed to comply document” for mid- and high-rise R-2 and R-4 occupancies.

    The green building code is intended to be adopted as a legally enforceable document and it cannot be effective without adequate provisions for its administration and enforcement.

    Chapter 2 Definitions. All terms that are defined in the code are listed alphabetically in Chapter 2. Terms are defined in Chapter 2. Codes are technical documents and every word, term and punctuation mark can impact the meaning of the code text and the intended results. The code often uses terms that have a unique meaning in the code and that code meaning can differ substantially from the ordinarily understood meaning of the term as used outside of the code. Where understanding of a term’s definition is especially key to or necessary for understanding a particular code provision, the term is shown in italics wherever it appears in the code. However, this is true only for those terms that have a meaning that is unique to the code. In other words, the generally understood meaning of a term or phrase might not be sufficient or consistent with the meaning prescribed by the code; therefore, it is essential that the code-defined meaning be known.

    Definitions are deemed to be of prime importance in establishing the meaning and intent of the code text that uses code-defined terms. The user of the code should be familiar with and consult this chapter because the definitions are essential to the correct interpretation of the code and because the user may not be aware that a term is defined in a manner that is not commonly understood.

    Chapter 3 Jurisdictional Requirements and Life Cycle Assessment. As indicated earlier, Section 301.1.1 allows ASHRAE 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, to be used. Similarly, ICC 700 may be applicable to specific types of residential construction in accordance with the decisions made by the jurisdiction in the portions of Table 302.1 related to Section 101.3.

    The jurisdictional requirements contained in Section 302 are formatted to afford jurisdictions the flexibility to adapt the code in a manner that is best suited to meet their unique environmental and regional goals and needs. The section numbers and optional enhanced performance features listed in Table 302.1 do not become enforceable unless they are specifically selected in the table by the jurisdiction and the appropriate “Yes” box is checked or otherwise specifically indicated in the jurisdiction’s adopting ordinance. Those provisions selected by the jurisdiction in Table 302.1 become enforceable for all buildings constructed in the jurisdiction. The text of all section numbers listed in Table 302.1 also contains a reference to Table 302.1, reinforcing the fact that they are not enforceable unless they are specifically adopted. Furthermore, the sample ordinance provided in the IgCC references Table 302.1 and requires that the jurisdiction indicate those provisions from the list that it intends to enforce.

    Jurisdictions must take great care when making their choices in Table 302.1. While various requirements listed in Table 302.1 may be environmentally beneficial in many jurisdictions, some may be inappropriate in other jurisdictions. If these practices were appropriate for all jurisdictions, they would have been included in the baseline requirements of the IgCC, not in Table 302.1.

    Where jurisdictions find the concept of jurisdictional requirements to be unnecessary, they are able to opt out by simply checking the “No” boxes for all provisions listed in Table 302.1. Because relatively few of the code’s provisions are listed in Table 302.1, even where jurisdictions do not choose any of the provisions or enhanced performance options listed in Table 302.1, the IgCC remains a strong and effective green and sustainable building tool. That said, many jurisdictions will appreciate the flexibility that the jurisdictional requirements provide in their efforts to address specific green and sustainable building concerns. Where jurisdictions begin to specifically adopt more of the items listed in Table 302.1 in future years, they will also appreciate the opportunities that the IgCC provides to grow and to produce a more sustainable built environment with each future adoption of the IgCC.

    Section 303 contains provisions for whole building life cycle assessment. The IgCC does not require that whole building life cycle assessment be performed. However, where these provisions are complied with, compliance with the material selection provisions of Section 505 is not required. In this manner, whole building life cycle assessment is encouraged, though not required.

    Chapter 4 Site Development and Land Use. Chapter 4 is intended to minimize the negative environmental impacts on and protect, restore and enhance the natural features and environmental quality of building sites.