Launch Slideshow

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Code green: (may be) coming to you in 2012

Code green: (may be) coming to you in 2012

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Work in progress

While the council's goal is to create a usable code, questions linger about whether the final document will be realistic and adoptable by states and localities nationwide. Many wonder whether it will work and if it's enforceable.

“First of all, it's an overlay code; this isn't a code that can stand up on its own,” says Scott Kriner, technical director of the Glenview, Ill.-based Metal Construction Association. “You can't use this instead of the building code.

“A lot of states that are adopting different versions of the International Energy Conservation Code will treat the model green code as another I-Code and make it their green construction code.” (See sidebar on previous page for more information about what states and cities have done so far.)

The code presents a number of potential positives for the metal industry.

“The urban heat island issue is going to affect roofing because of the requirements for solar reflectance and emittance,” Kriner says. “Another potentially positive area is related to water efficiency because of metal's ability to serve as rainwater harvesting support.” Other advantages include the recycled content and recyclability inherent with metal, as well as the fact that it's an ideal platform for photovoltaics and other renewable energy systems.

There are potential challenges as well.

“I'm concerned about a possible option for a lifecycle assessment approach to materials,” Kriner says. “I don't think whole-building assessment is ready for prime time yet. The science hasn't been completely developed and we're not yet at the point where it's mainstream knowledge.”

One of the greatest potential impacts — for everyone involved in construction — is the extra tracking, filing, and paperwork involved. Documentation requirements will increase for designers and builders. Manufacturers will need to provide more data.

“We're asking a lot of architects,” ICC's Bilka admits. “Plans for service life and building operation and maintenance must be provided. We have to look at the effort versus the environmental returns to determine which practices are effective.”

As a set of instructions for dealing with wide-ranging and complex challenges, the proposal remains a work in progress.

“We wanted to keep things as simple as possible, and yet be effective and offer direction,” Bilka says. “We can't afford to just dream about technology saving us; we have to face what we can do and what we can implement. We're interested in things that are effective and real.”

—Schneider (jschneider@hanleywood.com) is the editor of METALMAG, a sister magazine of PUBLIC WORKS.

HOW GOVERNMENTS ARE CHOOSING TO GET GREEN

As a complement to the International Code Council's (ICC) family of I-Codes (see list on page 43), the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) provides language that can be used to amend building and maintenance codes to include sustainability requirements.

The adoption process differs across the nation. A state legislature, county board, city council, etc., doesn't have to adopt the code and may write its own code or portions of a code. Whatever the language, though, the code doesn't have legal standing until a legislative body adopts it. At that point, all property owners within that body's jurisdiction must comply.

The first adoption was August 2010 in Richland, Wash.

As with anything new, there's a learning curve. ICC offers training, certifications, and technical support to assist in administration.

“Changes made to construction waste, landfills, and graywater are all positive changes that will take place when the model code's in use,” says ICC Chief Operating Officer Dominic Sims. “We don't expect that change overnight. It will take time, but communities that have already adopted serve as models for how the code makes a difference in diverse environments.”