What the IgCC Will Mean for LEED

Green Building

What the IgCC Will Mean for LEED

This week, the International Code Council (ICC) released Public Version 2.0 of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).

For those who may be unfamiliar with the IgCC, in 2009 the ICC launched an initiative to develop a model code for the new and existing commercial building sector that would address green building design and performance.

The AIA and ASTM International served as Cooperating Sponsors and played vital roles in the development of the IgCC. Additionally, ASHRAE, IESNA, and USGBC joined the team and offered support. However, it was just last year that ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2009 for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings was released. Would not Standard 189.1 kind of compete with the IgCC in certain ways?

Actually, as a result of the ICC bringing all of the aforementioned parties to the IgCC table, Standard 189.1-2009 was included as an alternative jurisdictional compliance option for the IgCC.

The IgCC is important because it embodies the first “code-friendly” outline for greening building design and construction projects. Similar to LEED, the IgCC addresses green building design and performance through a holistic approach, including topics such as: site development and land use, material resource conservation, energy efficiency, water use reduction, indoor environmental quality and comfort, commissioning, and specific requirements for existing buildings.

Within professional circles, I’ve noticed a few common misconceptions or inaccurate assertions regarding the IgCC as it relates to the LEED rating system. Some people believe the IgCC will soon make LEED somehow obsolete or irrelevant. Such notions speak to a misunderstanding regarding the unique purposes served by the IgCC and LEED. What follows are three important points that I would like to make to help clear the air about how the IgCC will differ from LEED:

1. Compliance with the IgCC will not equate to LEED certification.

With the release of LEED Version 3, USGBC has committed to a predictable, revolving schedule for future versions of LEED. Similar to model codes developed by the ICC and ASHRAE standards such as Standard 90.1, it is expected that LEED will adhere to a three-year development cycle. LEED Version 4 should be released in 2012, Version 5 in 2015, and so on.

With each new version of LEED, USGBC intends to “raise the ceiling” on high-performance green building projects. According to the USGBC white paper, “Greening the Codes,” as each new iteration of green building codes such (as the IgCC) “raises the floor” on minimum building performance benchmarks, LEED will fulfill the implications of its acronym and lead the market into even higher building performance benchmarks.

2. The IgCC is designed to be accepted as code; while, LEED is a voluntary (third-party verified) rating system.

Make no mistake, the IgCC is designed to be adopted as code; yet, USGBC has never intended for LEED to be interpreted as code. USGBC has acknowledged that LEED is one of several “voluntary, above-code green building rating systems.” This is a key point because if a municipal government mandates LEED, that government has no way of providing a proper mechanism for oversight and enforcement because an independent third-party (i.e. GBCI) evaluates the LEED documentation for approval.

3. The advent of the IgCC does not mark the “beginning of the end” for LEED.

As alluded to above, USGBC intends for LEED to always outperform the IgCC and most other green building codes. Consider the graphic below from USGBC’s “Greening the Codes” white paper:

Image property of USGBC

Moreover, neither USGBC or ASHRAE have been shy about supporting Ed Mazria’s 2030 Challenge. Historically, LEED has typically required at least base-level compliance with the latest version of ASHRAE Standard 90.1. Recently, ASHRAE has offered projected future targets for Standard 90.1 (which I first learned of at an ASHRAE workshop at last year’s Greenbuild) that aim for net-zero energy use intensity (EUI) by the 2030 version of the standard.

By my math, this suggests that by LEED Version 10, all certified buildings will be required to be net-zero energy. Perhaps by that time, LEED will begin to venture down the road of becoming obsolete.

For more information on IgCC, Public Version 2.0, please visit: http://www.iccsafe.org/cs/igcc/

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