International Green Construction Code: Jumping the Gun and Veering off Track?

By Vicki R. Harding, Partner, Pepper Hamilton LLP

As noted in a prior post, the final International Green Construction Code (IGCC) has been approved and is scheduled for publication in March 2012. The IGCC was developed by the International Code Council (ICC) - which issues model codes that are intended to establish minimum mandatory requirements, including the International Building Code (which has been adopted by applicable levels of government in all 50 states).

If things had proceeded in an orderly fashion as planned, (1) governments would have waited to consider adopting the IGCC until the final approved version was issued, and (2) those that adopted the IGCC would have incorporated it as part of the mandatory requirements applicable to buildings, as provided in the IGCC. However, things have not been going according to plan.

Many state and local governments have been interested in adopting code provisions to promote sustainable buildings for several years now. One approach has been to require that designated categories of buildings be LEED® certified. However, the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating systems are designed to be voluntary systems that measure sustainability, as opposed to setting minimum standards.

Consequently, it is understandable that state and local governments turned to draft versions of the IGCC. (At least 10 jurisdictions have already adopted the IGCC or portions of the IGCC in some fashion.) Although the IGCC was still undergoing fairly significant changes through the final hearings in late 2011, even the draft versions of the IGCC could be viewed as better suited for incorporation into building codes than LEED or other voluntary assessment standards. Nevertheless, using interim draft versions of the IGCC means that the adopting jurisdictions will need to determine how best to transition to the final issued version of the IGCC.

Another set of issues is raised by jurisdictions that apparently want to test the waters by adopting the IGCC in some form, but as a voluntary as opposed to mandatory standard. Since building codes in general set mandatory standards, and the IGCC was designed to follow that pattern, the effect of adopting the IGCC as a voluntary standard on administration of the IGCC is not entirely clear.

Perhaps the experience of the jurisdictions involved in these pioneering efforts will be helpful for those that follow, as an increasing number of jurisdictions move forward with adopting and attempting to implement the IGCC.

Sustainable Green Buildings

Read more at Sustainability-Counsel.com from Pepper Hamilton LLP's Sustainability, CleanTech and Climate Change Team.

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