Green-Building Regulations on the Horizon

June 1, 2007

By Ron Burton

The steamroller effect the green-building movement has had on the real estate industry over the past several years has been truly amazing. Even more remarkable, this turnaround in how we think about, design, build, and operate buildings has been fueled for the most part by forces within the real estate industry rather than regulations imposed from the outside by federal, state, or local governments. But, that's about to change as numerous green-building standards are currently under development and mandatory regulations are not far behind.

Voluntary programs, such as the U.S. EPA's ENERGY STAR® program, the U. S. Green Building Council's LEED certification and rating system, the Green Building Initiative's Green Globes program, numerous local voluntary green building programs, and other initiatives designed to affect changes using "market-incentive" strategies have provided the structure for the changes in green-building practices to date. These initiatives, along with programs like BOMA's Building Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP), have also provided the training and education for real estate professionals to successfully integrate green-building initiatives within their own operations.

The federal government, as well as many states and local communities throughout the country, have recently initiated programs intended to green the public building stock; however, very few communities have shown any inclination to enact regulations to require privately held buildings to be designed and built in compliance with green-building protocols. That will start to change once the development of green-building standards is completed sometime early in 2008, providing the basis for a regulatory structure to impose green-building requirements. Most of these standards are written specifically for adoption by state and local governments as mandatory requirements for construction permits and for compliance with building codes and other regulations governing new and existing buildings.

Three standards are currently under development under the auspices of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), including efforts by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) in cooperation with the U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in cooperation with the Intl. Code Council (ICC) and the Green Building Initiative. A fourth standard is under development by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Each of these efforts covers specific segments of the commercial and residential building industry.

ASHRAE/USGBC/IESNA Green Building Standard 189
ASHRAE serves as the Secretariat for this standard development process, which is intended to cover all commercial (non-residential) buildings. This standard targets new construction only, but includes new building projects, tenant finish-out in new and existing buildings, additions to existing buildings, and major remodeling projects. The document is planned as an ANSI standard suitable for adoption as code regulation at the city, state, or other jurisdictional level and is based on the USGBC's LEED rating system.

The committee directing the development of ASHRAE/USGBC/IESNA Standard 189 released the first public review draft of the standard on May 24, 2007, with public comments due July 7, 2007. Responses to the public comments are expected sometime in August. Completion of this Standard 189 could be accomplished sometime this fall, but it is also possible that the document will not be finalized until later in 2007. Given the breadth of the standard and the many interests that will potentially be impacted, a large volume of comments is expected. It is also likely that conflicts with other green-building standards currently under development will lead to additional comments that must be resolved. Based on the number of substantive comments that are expected, revisions to this first draft could result in the release of a second public review draft later this summer. If so, the time to complete the standard would be pushed to at least the end of 2007, and possibly early in 2008.

NAHB/ICC National Green Building Standard
The NAHB Research Center is the Secretariat for this standard development activity, which is intended to cover all residential buildings. Currently, the committee directing the development of the NAHB/ICC National Green Building Standard is planning to include single-family homes, multi-family buildings (including apartments and condominiums), and commercial buildings that also include multiple residential units. The standard targets new construction as well as additions and renovations to existing buildings. This document is also planned as an ANSI standard suitable for adoption as code regulation at the city, state, or other jurisdictional level and is based on NAHB's Green Home Building Guidelines.

The development committee held its first meeting on April 19-20, 2007, and plans to complete a first public review draft by mid-July. The public review process would then start in late July, with all comments due probably sometime in September. Since this committee will need to deal with public comments of its drafts (just as any ANSI-accredited standards developer must do), and since this committee will also likely be forced to deal with conflicts with other green-building standards, the development process is not anticipated to be complete before late 2007, and a final standard might not be available until mid-2008.

GBI Green Globes ANSI Standard
The Green Building Initiative (GBI) is the Secretariat for this activity intended to cover all commercial (non-residential) buildings. This ANSI standard is, however, not intended as a regulatory document, but is instead being developed as a guideline, meaning that the document would not include the mandatory language required for standards intended for adoption by city, state, or other jurisdictional levels. The document is based on GBI's Green Globes rating and certification program.

GBI's ANSI consensus committee has been empaneled and subcommittees are already at work developing revised text. BOMA was recently invited to participate in the development process. There is no clear development schedule for this standard, but with subcommittees already at work, a public review draft is likely to be finalized this summer

ASTM E 06.71 Standard
ASTM E 06.71
Subcommittee on Sustainability in the Performance of Buildings is the Secretariat for this activity intended to cover all commercial (non-residential) buildings. This effort is planned as an ASTM standard (with ANSI approval to follow) and is likely to be developed as a document suitable for adoption as code regulation at the city, state, or other jurisdictional level. The E 06.71 Subcommittee is currently drafting the initial document, but the schedule for this activity is unpublished at this time. Given the scope of this activity, conflicts are expected to develop with the ASHRAE/USGBC/IESNA, NAHB/ICC, and GBI standards also under development at this time.

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