I was recently forwarded an interesting article written by Helen Mason regarding the International Green Construction Code. She did such a good job reviewing the state of green codes that I wanted to make it available for download (PDF) to my readers and ask her a few follow up questions. Enjoy!
Chris: I was fascinated to read in your article that many Florida groups and cities already have indicated support for the IGCC. Do you anticipate jurisdictions in Florida will start adopting IGCC soon?
Helen: Yes, I do think the IGCC will be adopted by jurisdictions in Florida. The state has a long history of being a leader in promoting all areas of sustainability. In fact, the Florida legislature has mandated incremental increases in energy efficiency up to 50% by the 2019 Edition of the Florida Building Code and has required the use of the most current version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as the foundation code. The IECC is also a fundamental component of the IGCC.
Further evidence that Florida residents are committed to sustainability is shown by the adoption of “ Miami 21 Code” in May of 2010 which requires new buildings greater than 50,000 sq. ft. to be certified “at a minimum” LEED Silver. In addition, the developer must post a performance bond of 2% to 4% of the cost of construction which “shall” be forfeited if the building does not meet LEED Silver within a year of the Certificate of Occupancy. How “soon” the IGCC would be adopted will likely be controlled by the statutory provision that Florida building codes are revised on a three year cycle, generally six months after publication of International Code Council revisions. This would mean that adoption of the IGCC would likely not occur until the 2013 Edition of Florida Building Code.
Chris: Some jurisdictions are adopting IGCC as a “voluntary” code. What do you think of this development?
Helen: For many individuals, understanding and implementing the IGCC as a minimum standard will require a dramatic change in approach to their work. Therefore, I think it is reasonable for a jurisdiction to initially adopt the IGCC as a voluntary code to allow adequate time for parties to become educated and to discover any unique issues to a specific jurisdiction. However, the only way to achieve significant, predictable environmental benefits on a large scale is for jurisdictions to adopt the IGCC on a mandatory basis.
Chris: You raise a number of legal issues that may arise from the IGCC. Which do you think is the most significant and why?
Helen: When one is asked what “legal” issues may arise, typically you would think who is going to sue whomever; but I think the most significant legal issue arising from the IGCC is that it imposes obligations on owners to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings. As part of our national security, particularly with the wide unrest in the Middle East, the U.S. must reduce the energy consumption of existing buildings which accounts for 72% of total electricity consumption.
These IGCC mandates for existing buildings can be a first, but important, step in achieving this goal. In addition, these obligations can produce significant public and economic benefits. Requiring periodic improvements will reduce the deterioration of existing building stock; maintain overall quality and value of all construction and thus help to preserve neighborhoods. The public will benefit by maintaining its tax base and having less strain on utility infrastructure. Finally, these provisions can help to create a stable construction job market to meet the retrofitting and compliance obligations of building owners.
Photo credit: davesag