If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to build a green facility. The rules keep changing as sustainable practices evolve, but it is possible to develop a smoother system. Streamlining the local and state permitting procedures required for green buildings is part of that system.
It takes advance preparation and partnering with local and state jurisdictions to smoothly permit sustainable facilities (especially facilities with leading-edge technologies that might fall outside of routine code governance). Preliminary meetings to align the visions of owners, designers, builders, and regulatory agencies obtaining the permits are efficient. As an added bonus, inspections throughout the building process and receipts of final certificate of occupancy are also easier when there’s collaboration on code intent.
Following are several suggestions and considerations to speed up the permitting process for your next green building project.
Get involved in industry organizations to stay up to date on pending code revisions. Early involvement in crafting the language and requirements of these regulations will make adherence easier in the future. Early involvement in the process cuts down on later complaints, too.
Attend International Code Council (ICC) meetings. Participating in ICC Chapter meetings is helpful in understanding building officials’ perspectives. The chapters are made up of local regulators, code officials, etc. who discuss upcoming codes, exchange information on code enforcement, and work together to establish uniform interpretation of code provisions that may not be clear. ICC involvement gives you an opportunity to meet with industry peers and other interested parties to exchange ideas about improving existing codes. Attending these meetings is a great forum to hear about pending changes and give input from a builder’s perspective. Also invest some time in understanding regulators’ requirements, and get to know the code officials in your local jurisdiction.
Collect information on the latest tools for analyzing and reporting data for code and regulatory compliance. There are a plethora of tools that collect and analyze data for carbon footprinting. Predetermining acceptable formats and means/methods of collecting and validating these data is important if you don’t want to flush many hours of collecting, formatting, and analyzing data down the drain.
Team with regulators early when working on leading-edge lab or manufacturing projects that fall outside of normal code. You’ll want to do this to share the technical requirements, LEED requirements, and sustainable requirements, and to merge into an "alternate means" agreement of how to meet code intents on sustainability and process requirements for operation. The meetings for "alternate means" should start early in design process (at the schematic stage). The meetings should include architects, engineers, owners, and relevant government officials. Code consultants can be very helpful in moving the team efficiently through the process, too.
Know your current adopted building codes – they can create conflicts when trying to meet LEED requirements. One example: In California, a building can gain LEED points by using waterless urinals. Current California Plumbing Code, however, doesn’t recognize the use of waterless urinals, so the local building department may not allow such fixtures to be installed.
The Green Building Code is in its infancy stage in some states, so the provisions may be considered voluntary. Some of the provisions may conflict with current state code. There are also several cities that have adopted their own form of a Green Building Code. Early discussions with the local building department will provide assurance about what you may be permitted to do in terms of achieving LEED on proposed project. B
Melody Spradlin is the South Bay leader of Dome Construction (www.domeconst.com) in San Jose, CA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.