ICC Considers 2015 Green Code

08/01/2014 | By Ron Burton

Energy efficiency mandates are among the issues under discussion

Energy Efficiency

This year the International Code Council (ICC) considers changes for its green building code – the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). Approved proposals will be incorporated into the 2015 edition.

Following the ICC’s traditional process, two public hearings are being held this year to evaluate proposals. The hearings are conducted by IgCC code development committees whose recommendations are subject to the approval of ICC voting members. The year’s first hearing was held in Memphis, TN, in April, where the agenda included proposals with significant economic impacts on commercial real estate. In October, ICC will conduct public hearings in Fort Lauderdale, FL, after which voting members will cast their ballots.

Major concerns for the industry include proposals to restrict property sales, additional post-occupancy requirements for existing buildings, and more stringent energy efficiency mandates.

Successes for the Real Estate Industry

One of the biggest successes in Memphis came with recommended disapproval of the requirement that the sale of a building trigger retroactive compliance with the most recent energy code. The real estate industry has steadfastly opposed proposals to add any restrictions on property sales as an intrusion on the legitimate transfer of property as well as a violation of the basic legal rights of property owners. The proposed retroactive compliance with the most recent ICC energy code would, in most cases, require a very expensive upgrade to the building envelope, lighting, HVAC, water heating, and other building systems. With few exceptions, the proposal would have prevented a sales transaction from going forward if compliance had not been met.

Another success came with the disapproval of the proposal to eliminate the building owner’s choice to use ASHRAE Standard 189.1 as a more flexible and cost effective compliance option. The real estate industry has always supported options that give building owners and their design teams more design flexibility, which helps to reduce the costs of code compliance. ASHRAE 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings has been allowed as an alternative compliance option in the IgCC since its inception. Standard 189.1 includes additional performance-based design options that can be employed by design teams to produce the same energy and resource savings as more expensive prescriptive compliance paths. Deleting this design option in the IgCC would therefore be potentially costly for many building owners.

A complete list of other proposals that that were both opposed by real estate interests and recommended for disapproval by ICC committees in Memphis appears at right. Advocates for the real estate industry were largely successful in gaining committee agreement with our priority positions.

Nevertheless, some proposals with negative impacts were supported by committee recommendations despite objections from real estate advocates and some code enforcement officials:

  • Disapproved proposal to allow compliance with ICC energy code (IECC) requirements in lieu of the more stringent IgCC energy provisions
  • Supported redefinition of whole building lifecycle cost analysis to include a 60-year service life threshold
  • Disapproved reduced bicycle parking where space is limited
  • Supported more restrictive roof material reflectance options
  • Disapproved proposal to exempt roof repairs and recovering from the air barrier requirements of new construction
  • Disapproved exception to waste management systems where infrastructure (recycling programs, etc.) is unavailable
  • Disapproved proposal to delete overly stringent sound transmission provisions
  • Supported more stringent daylighting requirements
  • Approved additional post occupancy commissioning requirements
  • Supported mandatory minimum energy, water, and HVAC requirements for existing buildings
  • Disapproved real estate industry proposal to delete existing building requirements from the IgCC.

In the wake of the Memphis hearings, two major challenges loom. The first is to ensure that the successes secured in Memphis are upheld and that detrimental changes are defeated in October.

The second and much more critical challenge is to educate the large number of ICC voting members representing local and state governments about the impact on real estate and related industries of negative decisions.

Reaching these code officials prior to the electronic remote voting period in the three weeks following the Fort Lauderdale hearings will be crucial to the success of our efforts to determine the requirements in the 2015 edition of the IgCC.

It is vitally important that your local code officials hear from the constituencies they serve – especially you and your fellow real estate professionals. Your interests are at stake – and so is your pocketbook.
Toolkits to help you reach key players in your area along with materials on priority lists of specific critical issues are under development by BOMA, the National Multifamily Housing Council/National Apartment Association, and the National Association of Home Builders. These tools will be available prior to the Fort Lauderdale hearings. Watch for updates from your BOMA, NMHC/NAA, and NAHB local affiliates.
You can find more information on code development at the ICC website (www.iccsafe.org) and by contacting BOMA’s Codes & Standards staff at enaden@boma.org or ronburton@ptwadvisors.com.

Ron Burton is president of PTW Advisors, LLC and
former vice president of codes, standards, and regulatory
affairs for BOMA International.


These proposals were both opposed by real estate interests and recommended for disapproval by the ICC committees in Memphis.

Existing Buildings

  • Requirement that the sale of a building trigger retroactive
  • compliance with the most recent energy code
  • Mandatory compliance with post-occupancy energy
  • performance goals
  • Retrofit of insulation for all roof replacements to meet the most recent energy code
  • Change of occupancy requires compliance with the most recent energy code
  • Mandate for building engineering staff to gain certification before operating building energy systems

Energy Conservation

  • Mandatory additional 10% building envelope energy efficiency – emphasis on insulation and glazing
  • Elimination of building owner choice to use ASHRAE
  • Standard 189.1 as a more flexible and cost-effective
  • compliance option.
  • Expansion of vegetative roof requirements to all climate zones
  • Deletion of bio-based products like wood pellets from
  • renewable energy systems mandated for virtually all buildings
  • Mandatory installation of automatic shading devices for all glazing
  • Mandatory individual energy metering for each building tenant

Indoor Environmental Quality

  • Mandatory radon testing for all buildings
  • Limits on VOCs in carpets
  • Additional sound transmission limitations for all business occupancies

Site Development/Land Use

  • Mandatory removal of invasive (non-native) plants
  • Change to 500-year event flood threshold, which would
  • severely restrict site choices for new construction
  • More restrictive wetland/surface water buffer zone requirements
  • Addition of post-development mandates to control runoff


  • More restrictive bicycle parking mandates for additional spaces, bike security, and vertical bike storage
  • New mandates for preferential parking for electric and
  • high-mpg vehicles
  • 40-mpg threshold to qualify as an alternative fuel vehicle
  • eligible for preferential parking spaces
  • Mandatory termite barriers in some climate zones
  • Addition of roof deck relative humidity testing to building
  • commissioning requirements
  • Mandatory installation of bird collision avoidance measures

Materials Resource Conservation

  • Mandatory testing of roof membranes
  • Mandatory use of hail-resistant roofing materials in some
  • geographic areas
  • Limits on total waste generation for all commercial properties
  • Additional site waste management plan submission during permitting
  • Mandatory use of mold-resistant gypsum board

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