Green Building Codes: A Commercial Real Estate Perspective

April 23, 2010
The newly launched International Green Construction Code was developed with local, state, and federal laws in mind, and takes local conditions into account

Green building codes are hitting the radar screens of U.S. commercial real estate professionals as a result of recent initiatives. Widespread consideration of national model green building codes for inclusion in local and state building regulations, as well as by federal government agencies, is now underway, and crucial decisions concerning those efforts must be made by those who will be impacted by the potential imposition of these new regulations.

Landmark Agreement Energizes Move for Green Regulation
ICC and ASHRAE, along with the USGBC, Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), American Institute of Architects (AIA), and ASTM International, recently announced an agreement to merge two national efforts to develop adoptable and enforceable green building codes. The announcement coincided with the launch of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) with the release of Version 1.0.

As this column mentioned a few months ago, the launch of the IGCC "establishes a previously unimaginable regulatory framework for the construction of high-performance commercial buildings that are safe and sustainable … through a delivery infrastructure [that can] reach all 50 states and more than 22,000 local jurisdictions."

In a critical development, the IGCC will include Standard 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings as one compliance path jurisdictions may choose to follow. Standard 189.1 will also be included in its entirety in the distribution of the IGCC.

BOMA’s Role
BOMA is pleased that this agreement has been reached between ICC, ASHRAE, and cooperating sponsors. It’s consistent with BOMA’s suggested solutions to the problems of redundant codes competing for adoption and implementation in municipal, state, and federal jurisdictions.

As reported in the March issue of BUILDINGS in this column, BOMA was part of the consensus committee and influenced the development of Standard 189.1 by securing more workable, cost-effective provisions and bringing considerations of project cost and the need to consider basic business investment principles to the process. BOMA will now participate in the ongoing development of the IGCC as it enters a comment period in 2010, and is subject to code change proposals and public hearings in 2011 in advance of the publication of the 2012 edition.

As green building codes are considered for adoption and enforcement by local and state jurisdictions, BOMA will work to preserve building owners’ options in selecting designs, systems, or components that best meet their needs. BOMA will also work to ensure that the code is applicable only to buildings or projects specifically designated green, those participating in voluntary green building programs, or those where the building owners and managers have determined that compliance with green building codes is advantageous. BOMA doesn’t support the adoption and implementation of green building codes intended to apply to all newly constructed buildings, or to all tenant improvement, additions, and major renovations to existing buildings.

The Challenge for Commercial Real Estate
There’s widespread consensus that green codes are not intended to apply to every project, and they’re not designed to replace current energy, building, mechanical, and other codes that set the baseline for all construction. Green codes are meant to reach beyond minimum requirements and specifically intended to achieve significant reductions in energy usage, address site development and land-use requirements, improve indoor environments, encourage water resource conservation, and support the use of renewable energy systems. Green codes also include measures to address post-occupancy building performance, as well as extensive owner and operator education to ensure that future efficiencies are realized.

Current voluntary green building programs reach only about 30 percent of the built environment. Would the initial application of green building regulations to that universe of buildings make the most sense? Should tenant improvement, remodeling, and renovation projects be included in green regulations? What about limiting green codes to government buildings or new building construction only? What are the likely impacts of a wider application of green codes, especially on at-risk U.S. commercial real estate markets? How can local priorities and conditions be included in green regulations?

The answers to these and other questions will be critical to the success of efforts to add regulations to voluntary, market-based programs to speed the introduction of more universal green and sustainable construction.

Ron Burton is vice president for codes, standards, and regulatory affairs with BOMA International. He can be reached at [email protected].


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