Next-Generation Building Codes Take on Safety and Sustainability

Energy efficient and renewable technologies on and in commercial buildings are becoming more commonplace as businesses "go green." Due to the upswing in sustainable construction activities, it is important to understand how these technologies are...


Energy efficient and renewable technologies on and in commercial buildings are becoming more commonplace as businesses "go green." Due to the upswing in sustainable construction activities, it is important to understand how these technologies are applied within the framework of a sustainable building code, as well as how green building design and construction relates to fire safety. There is a need to ensure integration between regulations that promote sustainable construction and those that promote the safety of building occupants and firefighters.

As a natural evolution of building safety to address building sustainability along with the health and welfare of citizens, and in response to public demand, the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) is making its debut. Using the slogan "IGCC: Safe and Sustainable by the Book," this newly released and enhanced building code is a milestone on the road to developing commercial building standards that achieve goals of sustainability while incorporating the input of public safety officials across the country.

The Public Version 1.0 of the IGCC was unveiled in March 2010 by the International Code Council (ICC) at their Washington headquarters with participants from the fire safety community in attendance. The IGCC made its debut in a time when communities are calling for more sustainable building options and fire safety professionals are seeking more information about green trends and how they can be active contributors to the sustainability conversation.

The objective of the IGCC is to provide a green building code for traditional and high-performance buildings and by referencing the residential occupancies that have qualities similar to commercial structures, it is consistent and coordinated with the ICC family of Codes and Standards. The ICC Codes and Standards use the same basic principles that have made these model codes the predominant choice for adoption. The Code Council is no stranger to the green building discussion. In fact, they have been leading the development of energy-focused codes for over 30 years. The ICC, through its previous work and that of its legacy model code organizations, has been involved in energy efficiency since the late 1970s. During this time they have been developing codes and services to support sustainable building in commercial and residential construction, as well as providing related training, professional certifications and product evaluations.

The genesis of the IGCC effort occurred when the Code Council joined forces with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and ASTM International to develop the first green construction code for buildings.

"Our mission in this partnership is to develop a code that maintains the highest level of safety," said ICC CEO Richard P. Weiland. "But it also must also be compatible, enforceable, adaptable and effective through consultation on standards and best practices. The fire safety community is critical to developing a final code that helps to protect the safety of building occupants, which accounts for the mission of the firefighter and creates a sustainable and safe environment for all."

The Importance Of The IGCC

According to the Department of Energy, buildings consume approximately 40 percent of energy used and produce about the same amount of the nation's carbon emissions. To create a healthier climate, rating systems such as USGBC's LEED and GBI's Green Globes have been designed to support the construction industry's efforts to achieve sustainable goals. While these rating systems have produced great results, construction industry experts and regulators have discovered that where market forces are not adequate to improve energy efficiency, building codes and standards are needed to complement rating systems and assure that fire and building safety measures are not lost.

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