IgCC means change, not catastrophe
February 23, 2012
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : CODES & STANDARDS
“Will your business survive when ‘green’ becomes code?” was the title of the webinar. The overall implication of the promotional e-mail was that green construction would soon become code-mandated due to the completion of the 2012 International Green Construction Code and that mandated compliance could threaten the survival of many businesses due to liability concerns.
Now, I am not a lawyer and I’m certainly not in a position to provide you with complete assurance that the 2012 IgCC does not pose any threat to you from a product liability standpoint. But hopefully, I can lessen the fear of the 2012 IgCC that this webinar seemed intended to impart.
First of all, although the 2012 IgCC neared completion in November 2011, it is not being mandated across the country. At press time, a published version was not yet available and a targeted date for publication had not been announced. Once the 2012 IgCC is published, it will be adopted and implemented in a patchwork fashion across the country, as occurred with the other International Codes when they first became available.
The codes published by the International Code Council are model construction codes. They do not become law until they are adopted by a jurisdiction such as a state, county or city government. Since the 2012 IgCC is not currently available, it has not been adopted in any jurisdiction yet. Some jurisdictions have adopted one of the draft versions of the code: either Public Version 1 or Public Version 2. At press time, IgCC PV1 or IgCC PV2 had been adopted in jurisdictions in Arizona, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington. Most of these jurisdictions adopted and implemented the draft version of the IgCC as an option only, not as a mandated requirement.
The bottom line is that you will probably encounter one or more projects that call for IgCC compliance within the next few years. But it will most likely be because a builder, designer or owner requires compliance rather than a jurisdiction.
More importantly, it's quite unlikely that compliance with the IgCC will be required for all projects built in the United States anytime soon. This would literally take an act of Congress, and chances of that occurring are slight.
Although there are always concerns about how new code requirements will be interpreted and applied to building products, those concerns were partly alleviated at the IgCC final action hearings in Phoenix. Some of these issues included reference to ASHRAE 189.1, requirements for minimum component design life and Life Cycle Assessment, and clarification of energy efficiency requirements. Note that these changes only apply to the 2012 IgCC and not to IgCC PV1 or IgCC PV2.
Reference to ASHRAE 189.1
The reason for the delay in publishing the 2012 IgCC, at least in part, is that the ICC board of directors has not decided if it will honor the decision made by its membership regarding reference to ASHRAE 189.1 in the new code. The draft versions of the IgCC gave jurisdictions the right to decide if they would accept compliance with ASHRAE 189.1, along with chapter one of the IgCC, as a method of demonstrating full compliance with the IgCC. At the IgCC final action hearings in November 2011, the ICC membership approved an AAMA proposal to give the designer or builder that choice. The ICC board of directors, however, withheld final action on reference to ASHRAE 189.1, pending their own review.
The reference to ASHRAE 189.1 is a significant issue to the fenestration industry. ASHRAE 189.1 was first published in 2009. Designers who have already built buildings in compliance with it would not need to change their design in jurisdictions that adopt the IgCC, if the proposal to deem ASHRAE 189.1 equivalent to the IgCC is retained by the ICC board of directors. Similarly, manufacturers whose products comply with ASHRAE 189.1 could offer those same products for compliance with the IgCC in jurisdictions that choose to adopt that code.
The ICC board of directors’ decision to retain the right to override the membership vote is inconsistent with its own procedures for referenced standards that require that they be developed in an open and consensus manner similar to ASTM or ANSI. ASTM and ANSI procedures do not permit the decisions of the balanced, technical committee responsible for the document in question to be overridden by another body or executive committee such as a board of directors. Several Standards Developing Organizations have had to change their procedures to comply with this ICC requirement. And yet now, the ICC is not holding itself to the same level of accountability as it does others.
At press time, the ICC board of directors had not made a decision with regards to the reference to ASHRAE 189.1 in the 2012 IgCC.
No minimum component design life requirements
Also approved during the IgCC final action hearings was a proposal to remove the requirements for minimum component design life. These requirements were based on the Building Service Life Plan for the building. A BSLP provides guidance for the ongoing maintenance and operation of the building, similar to a care and maintenance manual for a new car.
Although the draft versions of the IgCC established minimum component design life requirements as part of the BSLP provisions, they will not be included in the 2012 IgCC. AAMA supported the removal of these requirements, as they were vague and would have been difficult to interpret and enforce. Representatives of several different industries also expressed concern that the requirements basically constituted an implied product warranty.
The 2012 IgCC will allow users to achieve one project elective by providing a BSLP for 100 years, or two project electives for a 200-year BSLP for the building being designed. So, some benefit can be obtained for products that have long service lives, but no minimum design life of components will be put into place.
Life Cycle Assessment defined, but not required
The proposed Life Cycle Assessment provisions for the IgCC required evaluation of characteristics such as acidification, eutrophication, smog potential, ozone depletion potential and primary energy use. According to the testifiers at the IgCC hearings, scientists around the world agree on how to measure these characteristics. Unfortunately, this information had not been shared in the form of proposed code text. Instead, the proponents advocated the use of software assessment tools whose criteria were not defined.
Therefore, requirements for their measurement were determined to be vague and unenforceable. All the proposals that relied upon evaluation of these characteristics were disapproved.
The end result is that the only reference to Life Cycle Assessment that will be included in the 2012 IgCC is a definition of the phrase.
Energy efficiency in the IgCC
The 2012 IgCC will require the U-factor and SHGC for fenestration to be 10 percent lower than that of the 2012 IECC when the prescriptive energy compliance path is chosen. The prescriptive path will be limited to buildings less than 25,000 square feet in area. Buildings greater than 25,000 square feet will need to use 10 percent less energy than buildings designed in accordance with the 2012 IECC, using the performance-based path of that document.
Returning to my original argument that your business can survive when ‘green’ becomes code: in the 20-plus years that I have been involved with construction codes, I have never seen new code requirements completely kill a product industry. I have seen dramatic product changes needed for an industry to survive. An example is the change to fenestration that we have seen due to energy conservation codes. But these changes have not killed the industry.
My daughter has a quote posted on her Facebook page that I believe is applicable here: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin