Posted on June 8, 2011 by Kirk Dryer

IGCC Series: Transportation Considerations for Green Buildings

The International Green Construction Code (IGCC) is a model code for cities seeking to promote sustainable building practices through their building codes. The IGCC promotes transition from the current voluntary green construction certifications, like USGBC’s LEED, to mandatory green construction codes. As the most recent revisions   of the IGCC are currently under review, Green Building Law Update hopes to promote awareness by examining some of the code sections.

403.3 Long term and short term bicycle parking shall be designated on the site plan by a registered design professional and as specified in Table 403.3. The required minimum number of spaces shall be determined based upon the occupied floor area of each primary use or occupancy of building. Accessory occupancy areas shall be included in the calculation of primary occupancy area.

403.4.2 Where parking is provided for a building that has a total building floor area greater than 10,000 square feet (929 m2) and that has an building occupant load greater than 100, at least 5 percent, but not less than 2, of the parking spaces provided shall be designated as preferred parking for low emission, hybrid, and electric vehicle

How will these codes affect transportation options and the locations of IGCC building projects?

“Location, location, location.”  Everyone involved in real estate hears this adage on a regular basis. But for green building developments, selecting a project site plays a different role.  Location will impact many environmental attributes of a building, including the types of transportation occupants use to get to the building.

The IGCC requires many buildings to include accommodations for various forms of green transportation. Buildings complying with IGCC must include reserved parking for low emission, hybrid, and electric vehicles under section 403.4.2.  Under section 403.3 the IGCC also mandates bicycle parking.

A building’s location can have a significant impact on the transportation choices occupants of a building make. A location far from residential areas may force an occupant to drive and buildings without mass transit access will have a similar effect.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently been in hot water for failing to consider the transportation impact for locating its own offices.  In the Kansas City area the General Services Administration (GSA) has proposed to move the Region 7 EPA Office from downtown Kansas City, Kansas to an office building in the suburbs.  However, the new building has less access to mass transit and other alternative forms of transportation for EPA employees.

The Region 7 EPA headquarters were built in 1999 to help revitalize a failing Kansas City, Kansas urban core. To compensate for the new suburban location, the GSA has promised that the new building will be upgraded to meet the LEED Gold standard.  GSA’s LEED promise raises an important question: To what extent can a suburban green building compensate for its location in a low-density area with less access to alternate forms of transportation?

Green building is important in all cities whether suburban or urban. However, Kansans are right to question the wisdom behind moving the Region 7 EPA office.

The IGCC requires a building owner to encourage occupants to utilize green forms of transportation. However, the impact of these measures may be reduced if buildings are located outside of a reasonable bicycling distance.

While the IGCC tries to create incentives for building occupants to choose green transportation, the IGCC, like any building code, does not address sprawl issues.  The IGCC does little for slowing sprawl and encouraging overall green development like the issues raised by the relocation of the Region 7 EPA headquarters.

Obviously, some forms of green transportation are not available or practical for various building locations. Recognizing these transportation limitations points to important green building certification considerations. Should buildings be rewarded for choosing locations with access to certain forms of green transportation (walking, bicycling, carpooling, mass transit, etc.) or, alternatively, should buildings be penalized for failing to do so?

Photo Credit: epSos.de

Original Article