Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Green Building Codes: New Regulatory Approaches Set Sights on Compliance for the Future

Jeremy Sigmon, LEED® AP BD+C
Manager, Building Codes Advocacy
U.S. Green Building Council

First printed in the spring 2011 issue of Living Architecture Monitor
(Volume 13, No. 2)

Now that summer is in full swing, we are all hoping for a bit of calm and relaxation. But kicking off your shoes now may put you behind in the fast-paced green building policy race that has – month after month – continued to increase in speed and momentum since last year’s exciting launch of a new set of regulatory tools.

The International Green Construction Code (IGCC) – which includes similarly intended Standard 189.1 – establishes a previously unimaginable framework for a code and regulatory approach to better building design, construction and renovation. The set of codes and standards address energy, water and resource efficiency; materials use and indoor air quality; and also provides code-intended language to address issues at the nexus of a building and its built and natural contexts. Importantly, this first-of-its-kind set of tools leverages the previously untapped code enforcement infrastructure to achieve greener building outcomes.

In truth, the shift is actually quite powerful. When multiplied over and over in nearly every building across the land, the seemingly minute human and environmental health risks that green building rating systems – and now green building codes – intend to address are staggering: pollution of all types, escalating emissions from greenhouse gases, depletion of scarce resources, destruction of habitat, human health risks of inactive or at least indoor lifestyles—and the list goes on. These risks are large not only because they spawn from between the cracks of the very fabric of our built world, but also because they are cumulative and aggregate over time.

This natural next step for codes and regulations is modern-day recognition of the code official – alongside licensed professionals – as a line of defense against some of the world’s greatest emerging threats to public health and safety. But as game-changing as that sounds (and it is), we need all the right levers working simultaneously to enable truly sustainable buildings and communities.

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