IgCC Adopted in Scottsdale, Ariz.; Lessons Learned

By Ben Ikenson  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: International Green Construction Code Approved with Energy Efficiency, Metering RequirementsPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: International Green Construction Code Sets Energy Efficiency Measures for Buildings

As the IgCC provides a template for zEPI and other new construction metrics aimed at improving performance and efficiency, building owners and managers may be concerned by the prospect of change. If their municipalities adopt the code, they will have an opportunity to express themselves during the adoption process because municipalities that use the overlay code can tailor it to their specific jurisdictions.

"First and foremost, building owners and managers will want to ensure that jurisdictions do not adopt, implement and enforce the IgCC as a set of mandatory minimum regulations for all buildings and all projects," says Ron Burton, a vice president with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). "The IgCC was not intended as a minimum code to govern all buildings and projects. Instead, it is intended as an 'overlay' code and as such includes provisions that do not allow project construction permits to be issued on the IgCC alone. Rather, it is intended to be used in conjunction with the base (minimum required) building regulations."

Not surprisingly, Burton is also concerned about limiting increases in project cost from IgCC requirements — in terms of both first costs and long-term financial impacts. Denniston says he agrees that cost-effectiveness of the measures outlined in the green code is a consideration, but also concedes that "as a green code, some of the requirements may step beyond traditional cost-effectiveness tests."

Nonetheless, if the prospect of change is daunting to some, the fact that the code has been implemented somewhat seamlessly in various municipalities should be encouraging. In Arizona, the City of Scottsdale adopted the IgCC as the core component of its well-established voluntary commercial green building program. Here, the IgCC becomes required when zoning entitlements are granted in designated planning zones like downtown. The city also established amendments that help adapt the code to Scottsdale's geographic conditions, existing ordinances and environmental quality of life.

"However, the very structure of the IgCC accommodates regional variability while providing for uniformity and consistency between adopting jurisdictions," says Anthony Floyd, a planner with Scottsdale's Green Building Program. "The IgCC makes it easier for developers of commercial projects to be green-certified through the building permit process. By integrating the IgCC into a jurisdiction's plan review and inspection process, green certification is streamlined and a Green Certificate of Occupancy can be issued following the final building inspection."

Floyd says that post-occupancy inspections for building commissioning and performance verification represent the biggest challenge for building code enforcement agencies. After a Certificate of Occupancy is issued following a final inspection to determine that the building complies with its adopted codes and respective ordinances, the jurisdiction has little leverage or legal mechanisms to rectify a future violation unless it is found to adversely affect the health and safety of the building occupants.

"This creates a dilemma for building commissioning and performance verification with respect to energy, water and comfort issues," explains Floyd. "The required testing, measurement and reporting activities culminate after ... the building has had a chance to be fully occupied and operate over a course of four seasons. Any reported deficiencies as a result of commissioning are not considered a threat to health and safety and therefore difficult for most jurisdictions to enforce."

However, the IgCC represents an important step in broadening the scope of building codes, because it places the long-term performance of buildings within the realm of regulatory authorities. "The IgCC is a tool for performance accountability with respect to the design team, builder, developer and operators," says Floyd. "It will help facilitate a shift towards outcome-based codes predicated on actual building performance and not just modeling and prescriptive measures."

"With the recent arrival of smart technologies and advanced HVAC and lighting control systems, post-occupancy commissioning is more important now than ever. The IgCC is expected to help bridge this lagging gap between expected and actual outcomes. This is the only way to effectively achieve green buildings and ultimately sustainable communities," says Floyd.

In fact, inclusion of an outcome-based compliance path had been considered for the IgCC. Submitted by a broad coalition including BOMA, The American Institute of Architects, New Buildings Institute, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the alternate and optional compliance path would have allowed owners to meet the IgCC by providing 12 months of metered data within the first three years of occupancy to prove actual (or outcome-based) energy performance. Targets for energy use would be set based on the zEPI scale.

While the outcome-based compliance path was not ultimately included in the final version of the IgCC, many echoed Floyd's expectation that outcome-based codes will be needed in the future.

"A green code by nature should maximize design innovation and performance potential," explains Denniston. "The outcome-based compliance path proposed for the IgCC provides an opportunity to strive for performance goals beyond the minimum threshold established by code and is available for jurisdictions that want to adopt it."

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  posted on 2/3/2012   Article Use Policy

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