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  • Effective Use of the International Green Construction Code

    The International Green Construction Code® (IgCC®) 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 Code® (ISPSC®), 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 2015 IgCC

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

    ChaptersSubjects
    1-2Administration and definitions
    3Jurisdictional requirements
    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, inspections, operation and maintenance
    10Existing buildings
    11Existing building site development
    12Referenced standards
    Appendix AProject electives
    Appendix BPost-occupancy commissioning reporting

    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 103109).

    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. As the IgCC is an overlay code, Section 106, in conjunction with Section 101.2, 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. 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.

    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.

    Section 401.2 requires predesign site inventory and assessment. Where indicated by the jurisdiction in Table 302.1, Section 402 limits building construction near surface water, in conservation and flood hazard areas and on greenfield sites, park land or agricultural land. Section 403 requires stormwater management. Section 404 limits potable water uses related to landscape irrigation and outdoor fountains. Section 405 addresses vegetation, soil and water quality protection.

    Section 406 requires that a plan be developed to ensure that least 75 percent of land-clearing debris and excavated soils is diverted from disposal.

    Section 407.1 requires that at least one walkway or bicycle path connect building entrances to streets or other paths. Buildings with a total floor area of over 10,000 square feet (929 m2) must also provide changing and shower facilities. Bicycle parking and storage requirements are contained in Sections 407.3 through 407.3.2 and Table 407.3.

    Where indicated by the jurisdiction in Table 302.1, and where the total building floor area is greater than 10,000 square feet (929 m2), preferred parking is required by Section 407.4 for highoccupancy and low-emission, hybrid and electric vehicles. These requirements, however, do not take precedence over the accessible parking requirements of the International Building Code.

    Section 408 mitigates heat island effects through requirements related to site hardscape materials, shading and roof surfaces and coverings. Where indicated to be enforceable in the jurisdiction in Table 302.1, light pollution from building sites must be controlled in accordance with Section 409.

    Chapter 5 Material Resource Conservation and Efficiency. Chapter 5 addresses material resource conservation and efficiency by means of provisions related to material selection, recycling, reuse, renewability, toxicity and durability, including resistance to damage caused by moisture.

    Section 502 addresses material storage and handling during the construction phase. Section 503 requires that a construction material and waste management plan be prepared and allows the jurisdiction to increase the percentage of waste that must be recycled in Table 302.1. Section 504 requires areas be designed and constructed to facilitate the recycling of waste generated post-certificate of occupancy.

    Section 503 requires a construction waste management plan.

    Section 504 requires recycling areas for waste that is generated by the building occupants after issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy.

    Section 505 requirements are related to material selection and properties. Section 505.1 requires that building materials conform to Section 505.2, 505.3 or 505.4.

    Section 505.2 requires that at least 55 percent of constructed materials selected for each project be any combination of the following material types: used, recycled, recyclable, bio-based, or indigenous.

    Section 505.3 contains provisions for whole building life cycle assessment.

    Section 505.4 requires that at least 55 percent of the materials in buildings comply with provisions related to environmental product declarations or multiattribute standards.

    Section 506 regulates the mercury content of fluorescent lamps.

    Chapter 6 Energy Conservation, Efficiency and CO2e Emission Reduction. Chapter 6 is intended to provide flexibility and permit the use of innovative approaches to achieve the effective use of energy.

    All buildings that consume energy must comply with the requirements of Sections 603 (Energy Metering, Monitoring and Reporting), 611 (Energy Systems Commissioning and Completion) and, where indicated by the jurisdiction in Table 302.1, must also comply with Section 604 (Automated Demand Response Infrastructure).

    In addition to the preceding, buildings must comply with one of three options:

    • Buildings designed to the performance-based compliance option must also comply with Sections 602 (Performance-Based Compliance), 609 (Specific Appliances and Equipment), 610 (Onsite Renewable Energy Provisions) and specified provisions of Section 608 (Building Electrical Power and Lighting Systems). In addition, these buildings must also be in compliance with key provisions of the International Energy Conservation Code.

    • Buildings designed to the prescriptive-based compliance option must also comply with Sections 605 (Building Envelope Systems), 606 (Building Mechanical Systems), 607 (Building Service Water Heating Systems), 608 (Building Electrical Power and Lighting Systems), 609 (Specific Appliances and Equipment) and 610 (Onsite Renewable Energy Provisions). In addition, these buildings must also be in compliance with key provisions of the International Energy Conservation Code.

    • Buildings designed to the outcome-based compliance option must also comply with Sections 610 (Building Renewable Energy Provisions) and 612 (Outcome-based Pathway Requirements). In addition, these buildings must also be in full compliance with the International Energy Conservation Code.

    Section 602.2 requires that performance-based designs demonstrate a zEPI of not more than 50, as determined in accordance with Equation 6-1. This equation is based on a ratio of Proposed building performance to Baseline building performance. Both the Proposed and Baseline performances must be calculated in accordance with Appendix G of ASHRAE 90.1. Section 602.3 requires the CO2e emissions for both the Proposed and Baseline buildings to be determined by Equation 6-2.

    Section 603 addresses energy metering, monitoring and reporting and is applicable to all buildings that consume energy. Section 603.2 requires that energy distribution systems be designed to provide separate metering of the energy use categories listed in Table 603.2. For buildings greater than 25,000 square feet in gross floor area, meters must be installed. For buildings less than 25,000 square feet in gross floor area, the system must be designed to accommodate the installation of future meters. Section 603.3 requires that building energy metering be capable of determining energy use and peak demand for the types of energy indicated in Sections 603.3.1 through 603.3.7.

    Where the jurisdiction has indicated in Table 302.1 that Section 604.1 is enforceable, an automated demand-response infrastructure must be provided. This requires that building energy, HVAC and lighting systems and specific building energy-using components be provided with controls that respond to changes in energy demand by means of automated preprogrammed strategies.

    Section 605 provides building envelope system requirements for buildings that are designed on a prescriptive basis. Section 605.1.1 requires that insulation and fenestration exceed the requirements of the International Energy Conservation Code by at least 5 percent. Section 605.1.2.2 requires testing of the building thermal envelope for air tightness.

    Section 610 establishes minimum renewable energy source requirements for all buildings that consume energy. It requires that buildings use renewable energy sources to provide either 2 percent of total calculated annual energy use by means of solar photovoltaic or wind, or 10 percent of annual estimated hot water energy by means of solar hot water heating.

    Section 611 is applicable to all buildings that consume energy. It requires the commissioning and completion of mechanical, lighting, electrical and building envelope systems. These systems are also listed in Table 903.1, Commissioning Plan.

    Section 612 establishes the requirements for the outcome-based pathway compliance option. For those buildings containing the occupancies specifically in Table 612.1, this option allows for compliance to be determined after the building is constructed and occupied. Buildings with occupancies or uses not listed in Table 612.1 cannot use this option.

    There are also provisions outside of Chapter 6 that have significant impacts on energy: Table 302.1 allows jurisdictions to require lower zEPI values, or require more stringent levels of efficiency, by occupancy. Where adopted, the project electives of Section A106 in Appendix A contain additional energy conserving practices that recognize and encourage energy performance that exceeds the baseline minimum requirements of Chapters 3 and 6. Section 1003.2 addresses energy use where existing buildings are altered. Where indicated to be enforceable in Table 302.1, Section 1007.3 requires that owners of existing buildings report post certificate of occupancy annual net energy use, energy demand and CO2e emissions.

    Chapter 7 Water Resource Conservation, Quality and Efficiency. Chapter 7 provides requirements that are intended to conserve water, protect water quality and provide for safe water consumption.

    Section 701 regulates water metering.

    Section 702 regulates water consumption through limitations of fixture and fitting flow rates and by means of requirements related to specific equipment and appliances. It also requires that municipal reclaimed water, where available and required by the jurisdiction in Table 302.1, be supplied to water-supplied toilets, urinals, trap primers and applicable industrial systems. Hot water distribution systems must be designed to reduce the volume of water between fixtures and sources of hot or tempered water in accordance with Section 702.8.

    Section 703 regulates water used in HVAC systems and equipment including hydronic closed systems, humidification systems, condensate coolers, condensate drainage recovery, once through heat exchangers, humidifier discharge, cooling towers, evaporative condensers, fluid coolers, wethood exhaust scrubber systems and evaporative cooling systems.

    Section 704 regulates water treatment devices and equipment including water softeners, reverse osmosis water treatment systems and onsite reclaimed water treatment systems.

    Chapter 8 Indoor Environmental Quality and Comfort. Chapter 8 is intended to ensure that the building's interior environment is conducive to the health of building occupants.

    Section 801.2 requires that an indoor air quality management plan be developed to ensure compliance with Sections 802 through 805. Section 802 addresses air-handling system access for cleaning and repair, as well as air-handling filter rack design. Section 803 contains requirements for the ventilation of buildings during the construction phase, limits pollutant sources in print, copy and janitorial rooms, and provides filters requirements for air-conditioning systems. Section 804 contains specific indoor air quality and pollutant control requirements for fireplaces, solid fuel-burning appliances, vented decorative gas appliances, vented gas fireplace heaters and decorative gas appliances. Where the jurisdiction has indicated in Table 302.1 that Section 804.2 is enforceable, baseline indoor air quality testing is required. Section 805 prohibits the use of urea-formaldehyde foam insulation and materials that contain asbestos.

    Section 806 regulates emissions from wood products, adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, flooring, acoustical ceiling tiles, wall systems and insulation.

    Where the jurisdiction has indicated in Table 302.1 that Section 807.1 is to be enforceable, sound transmission levels must be limited in accordance with Sections 807.2 through 807.5.2.

    Section 808 requires that fenestration be provided to ensure that interior spaces in the specified occupancies benefit from exposure to natural light.

    Chapter 9 Commissioning, Inspections, Operation and Maintenance. Chapter 9 addresses building commissioning, inspections, operation and maintenance. It requires commissioning and inspections as specifically listed in Table 902.1. Chapter 9 also requires that construction documents contain information related to building operation and maintenance in accordance with Section 903.

    Many of the provisions of Chapter 9, and in particular those in Sections 902 and 903, are essentially based on the requirements for special inspections contained in the International Building Code. Both Table 903.1 and Section 903 also contain ties to, and are coordinated with, various provisions in Chapters 6 and 8 of the IgCC. The building operation and maintenance documents required by Section 903 are intended to help and encourage building owners and facility management staff to operate and maintain buildings in a manner, and a performance level, as originally intended by the design professionals as they strove to configure the building systems in a manner that satisfied the requirements of the IgCC.

    Chapter 10 Existing Buildings. Conceptually, the requirements of Chapter 10 of the IgCC are based on the requirements in the International Existing Building Code. These provisions are not retroactive. They apply only where buildings are altered or added to.

    Additions are essentially handled as new construction.

    Alterations must meet the requirements of other applicable chapters of the code for those portions or elements of the building that are being altered. However, similar to the means by which the International Building Code addresses accessibility in existing buildings, Section 1003.2 requires that at least 10 percent of the cost of alterations be dedicated to improvements related to water and energy conservation and efficiency. Water and energy conservation and efficiency requirements that are intended to apply specifically to existing buildings are listed in Sections 1003.2.1 through 1003.2.7. These sections address the following: metering devices; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; service water systems; lighting; swimming pools and spas; insulation of unconditioned attics; and roof replacement insulation.

    Section 1004 requires that buildings undergoing a change of occupancy comply with the basic water and energy conservation measures in Sections 1001.3.1, 1001.3.2 and 1001.3.3.

    Section 1005 provides relief for historic buildings under certain conditions. Where buildings are decommissioned, Section 1006 requires that a material and waste management plan be developed to ensure that such buildings are deconstructed and demolished in such a manner that at least 50 percent of materials are diverted from landfills.

    Where indicated to be enforceable in the jurisdiction in Table 302.1, Section 1007.2 allows existing buildings to be evaluated for compliance with the IgCC. Existing building owners often use this type of information to market their building to potential tenants. Section 1007.3, again where indicated by the jurisdiction in Table 302.1, requires annual net energy use, energy demand and CO2e emissions reporting.

    Chapter 11 Existing Building Site Development. While Chapter 10 is applicable to existing buildings, Chapter 11 is applicable to additions to, and to the alteration, repair, maintenance and operation of the sites on which those buildings are located.

    Conceptually, much like Chapter 10, the requirements of Chapter 11 of the IgCC are based on requirements contained in the International Existing Building Code. These provisions are not retroactive. They apply only where buildings are altered or added to.

    Additions are essentially handled as new construction. Alterations must meet the requirements of other applicable chapters of the code for those portions or elements of the building that are being altered.

    Section 1105 provides relief for historic buildings under certain conditions.

    Chapter 12 Referenced Standards. The code contains numerous references to standards that are used to regulate materials and methods of construction. Chapter 12 contains a comprehensive list of all standards that are referenced in the code. The standards are part of the code to the extent of the reference to the standard (see Sections 102.4 and 102.4.1). Compliance with the referenced standard is necessary for compliance with this code. By providing specifically adopted standards, the construction and installation requirements necessary for compliance with the code can be readily determined. The basis for code compliance is, therefore, established and available on an equal basis to the code official, contractor, designer and owner.

    Chapter 12 is organized in a manner that makes it easy to locate specific standards. It lists all of the referenced standards, alphabetically, by acronym of the promulgating agency of the standard. Each agency's standards are then listed in either alphabetical or numeric order based upon the standard identification. The list also contains the title of the standard; the edition (date) of the standard referenced; any addenda included as part of the ICC adoption; and the section or sections of this code that reference the standard.

    Appendices. Appendices are provided in the IgCC to offer optional or supplemental criteria to the provisions in the main chapters of the code. Appendices provide additional information and standards not typically administered by all building departments. Appendices have the same force and effect as the first 12 chapters of the IgCC only when they are explicitly adopted by the jurisdiction.

    Appendix A Project Electives. Where Appendix A is adopted, it encourages the construction of buildings that are “greener” and “more sustainable” than those that meet only the baseline minimum requirements found in the body of the IgCC.

    These provisions encourage, but do not require, the implementation of green and sustainable practices that are otherwise difficult or impossible to mandate. For example, it would not be realistic to require that all buildings be constructed on brownfield sites. It is, however, environmentally beneficial to encourage construction on brownfield sites. Thus, Appendix A contains a project elective related to brownfield sites.

    Project electives encourage the consideration of, but do not require the implementation of, all green and sustainable practices contained in Appendix A. Compliance is required with at least three of the project electives.

    Where green and sustainable practices and provisions are generally suitable as mandatory requirements, they have typically been placed in the body of the IgCC. Green and sustainable practices that are seldom or never appropriate as mandatory requirements for all projects in all regions, or that are intended to encourage and recognize, but not necessarily require, higher building performance, are typically more appropriately integrated in the code as project electives.

    Sections A104 through A108 of Appendix A are arranged by major sections that correspond with the fundamental principles addressed in Chapters 4 through 8 of the IgCC: site; material resource conservation and efficiency; energy conservation, efficiency and earth atmospheric quality; water resource conservation and efficiency; and indoor environmental quality and comfort.

    The specific project electives to be implemented on each project are selected by the owner and design professional from these sections. It is because the specific electives selected can vary from project to project that they are deemed “project” electives, and it is the fact that these provisions are not mandatory until they are selected by the owner and design professional that they are deemed project “electives.”

    It is intended that building owners will implement multiple project electives beyond the minimum of three in an effort to show that their buildings are “greener” and gain a market advantage over their competitors, or to show the public that they are interested in the public welfare that sustainable practices promote. Jurisdictions that adopt the appendix are required to list the project electives complied with on each project in documents that accompany the Certificate of Occupancy, which can, in turn, be used by owners for their sustainable “bragging rights.”

    Appendix B Post-occupancy Commissioning Reporting. This appendix contains provisions related to commissioning that are required to be complied with after the Certificate of Occupancy is issued. Appendices are not enforceable unless they are specifically adopted.