Heading for Greener Pastures
By Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP
Do you remember your parents chiding you for leaving lights on in the house or leaving doors open? As an adult, you may find yourself in that role now. You may attribute your diligence to your concern over energy use and its impact on the global environment. However, chances are you’re just trying to save a few bucks on your utility bill.
The same motive is driving the rise of green building construction. Better, smarter, greener buildings save money. Longer lasting, durable, resilient infrastructure saves money. And oh, by the way, it’s also good for the planet. You could say it’s “green” on two fronts.
At one time, green construction development was limited to those altruistic individuals who cared about the impact of their projects. Today, developers find themselves designing greener structures not necessarily because they want to, but because they have to. The age of green building codes has arrived.
What’s out there?
There are many options for encouraging greener building and development. Various organizations have created model codes or rating systems to help others develop green building programs or revise building ordinances. Some of the more popular options are:
International Green Construction Code. The IgCC is the first model code to include sustainability measures for the entire construction project and its surrounding site. Generally, it applies to the design and construction of all types of buildings except single- and two-family residential structures, multifamily structures with three or fewer stories and temporary structures. For more information, visit iccsafe.org.
ASHRAE 189.1-2011: Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers developed this model code with the American National Standards Institute, United States Green Building Council and Illuminating Engineering Society. It contains minimum requirements for increasing the environmental and health performance of buildings’ sites and structures. Generally, it applies to the design and construction of all types of buildings except single-family homes, multifamily homes with three or fewer stories, and modular and mobile homes. Find more information at ashrae.org.
International Code Council 700 – National Green Building Standard (ICC 700). ICC 700 is a rating and certification system that aims to encourage increased environmental and health performance in residences and residential portions of buildings. Its criteria apply to the design and construction of homes and subdivisions. It provides independent, third-party verification that a home, apartment building or land development is designed and built to achieve high performance in six key areas: site design, resource efficiency, water efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and building operation and maintenance. Visit homeinnovation.com for more information.
USGBC Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Probably the most popular green building rating system, LEED aims to increase the environmental and health performance of buildings’ sites and structures and of neighborhoods. The current version is LEED v4. An examination of key changes in LEED v4 that may affect precast manufacturers can be found in the Precast Inc. article available at precast.org/leed-v4-2. More information on LEED can be found at usgbc.org/leed.
Green Globes. Green Globes is a web-based program that provides guidance for green building development and certification that includes an on-site assessment by a third party. The program encourages improved environmental and health performance for all types of buildings except residential structures. The Green Building Initiative administers Green Globes in the United States. A more thorough description of Green Globes and how it compares with LEED can be found in a previous Precast Inc. article, available online at precast.org/leed-game. For more information about Green Globes, visit greenglobes.com.
Envision. Aimed at infrastructure projects, this program is a joint collaboration between the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers founded ISI in 2010 in partnership with the American Council of Engineering Companies and the American Public Works Association. Envision measures the sustainability of an infrastructure project from design through construction and maintenance. Visit sustainableinfrastructure.org for more information.
As more codes and standards are established, there may be some confusion in the building industry. With that in mind, some organizations are seeking to align their guidelines in the unified goal of encouraging high-performance, sustainable construction. There is work ongoing to combine IgCC, ASHRAE 189.1 and the LEED programs. This would be a welcome initiative by code officials, architects, engineers and contractors.
What does this mean for you?
First and foremost, this could mean an increase in market share. Becoming knowledgeable on these programs and how they apply to your product lines opens up markets where projects require or provide incentives for adherence to a green code or standard.
Many prognosticators agree that more mandatory building codes are on the way. The advent of green building codes and standards is a direct result of the significant impacts of green building rating systems like LEED and Green Globes. These systems have demonstrated that sustainable buildings and infrastructure really can decrease operating costs, increase value and reduce overall environmental impacts. All you have to do is a little research. Just don’t forget to turn off the light when you’re done.
If you would like help understanding these codes and standards, or have any questions related to precast sustainability, please contact Claude Goguen, NPCA’s director of Sustainability and Technical Education at (317) 571-950o.