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Code Green

Have a Building Code Question?

New forum on green building and the code

At trade shows we ask customers and passersby what their biggest challenges are in green building.


“Wading through the greenwash”

“Getting customers to buy into it.”

Those are a few of the common answers. But one answer that’s all too common is “Convincing my building inspector that what I want to do is better than what (s)he wants me to do.”

When we talk to building inspectors about _their_ biggest challenges in green building, they tell us that it’s the magnitude of new stuff they need to learn in order to keep up with it.

Many inspectors are reluctant to accept non-traditional ways of doing things because they represent the line of health and safety requirements in homes–building inspectors are protectors of the people. But green building is a better way to build and actually represents a higher standard of health and safety. So inspectors ought to be welcoming it with open arms (which some do).

The main problem is one of information and communication.

At Green Building Advisor, we’ve built a sizable information base in our Green Building Encyclopedia
and a good communication tool in our forums
. This new Building Code forum
is designed to bridge the gap between information and communication.

Lynn Underwood
, the Chief Building Official from Norfolk Virginia will lurk in the forum and answer the good questions (after all, he’s got a day job so we can’t ask him to answer the bad ones too). But we’d like to invite other building officials to join the discussion.

Inspectors: What are your biggest challenges in accepting green building practices?

Builders and remodelers: Are there examples you’d like to share on how you smoothed over the speed bumps? How did you get your local building inspector to buy in to a sealed crawlspace, or un-vented roof?

How can we help builders, architects, and inspectors solve problems so that we can get on with the business of building better, more durable, healthful houses?

Visit our new Building Code Forum.


  1. Anonymous | | #1

    dryer creating a vacuum in Mech room
    I was told that I could put my w/d in my 9x11 mech room with gas furnace and gas hw tank as long as I install an air inlet in the form of a pea trap about 4-6" dia to prevent the gas fumes from being sucked back into the house. Is this correct and wouldn't it make the room constantly cold?

  2. Daniel Morrison | | #2

    A great question, but...
    you've got to go to the [**new forum**]( if you want to win the prize of being the first to ask a question there.

  3. EJ Palma | | #3

    Education vs Personal Philosophy vs Changes
    I am a licensed Home Improvement Contractor in Connecticut since 1983 and a licensed Building Official since 1990. My business has been designing and building properly oriented south facing sunrooms, greenhouse additions and conservatory rooms since the early eighties. Weatherization and energy detailing of existing structures is also a large part of my business along with architectural woodworking. As with any contracting business that started in the seventies and eighties in the field of renewable technologies "Reaganomics" placed a big hit on business due to the abolishment of the energy credits. What this allowed was the creation of a large gap in the educated public, and skepticism regarding green building principles in the population of existing building officials. Fossil fuels took the lead again in the peoples choices due to the cost. Importing cheap oil from the from the Middle East and domestic coal took the foundation away from what had already been established in Renewable Technologies businesses. The effect that this had on the building industry and code changes was devastating for many years. Our state has a large gap in the education of Building Inspectors in the last 25 years toward the principles of Green Building. The attitudes of many inspectors and officials are obstructionistic and archaic, and many do not even think that Climate Change is a reality. Hopefully with the addition of code changes in the new IRC and IEC being adapted in our state this will change. Education of the public and the public officials is the most important part of changing the thought process and instituting and adapting a new greener building code. In my opinion the building code needs to change drastically and stop enforcing only the minimum standards of building. The code needs to become more stringent and mandate that everyone build to the same high standards, while incorporating green building principles. Many may think this to be idealistic, but should the Building Code not set high standards for building quality, occupant health and safety, energy efficiency, and environmental impact? Great changes are needed in both attitudes and educational programs. Politics and lobbyists need to be eliminated from building code changes and adaptation!

  4. Lynn Underwood | | #4

    Education vs Personal Philosophy vs Changes
    Thanks for your comments. they are reflection of the cynicism of modern society. First, we hear one thing from the scientific community...then 10 years later they reverse themselves. So, some of us tend to take a "let's wait and see if it's REALLY true", attitude.

    I have a different way of looking at the aspect of green building. We, as a species are a parasite on this planet...completely dependent and at its mercy. At the very least, we should respect and honor our host: Mother Earth. Builders should be responsible by selecting products that promote energy efficiency and at the same time do little or no harm to the Earth. Let's say, global warming is an inaccurate hypothesis. So what? The change we make will improve our lives and those of our progeny. We didn't clean up the Chesapeake Bay because of some planetary cataclysm, We did it because it was the responsible thing to do.

    The International Code Council has dedicated a significant amount of resources toward creating green building initiatives: ICC 700, International Green Construction Code, etc. They have a host of training opportunities on green building. They have a certification category for Inspection of Green Buildings. Evereywhere I travel, there are more and more demands at the local level for a green building program. If it is not in your home state, trust me... it very soon will be. Thanks for your comments.

    Lynn Underwood
    Norfolk, Virginia

  5. Roy | | #5

    Deck roof
    How many feet should my 6x6 cedar post be under ground to support a conventional roof?

  6. Lynn Underwood | | #6

    Deck Roof
    Sorry it took me so long Roy,
    The answer to that question depends on the load imposed on the post and the strength of the post. Embeddment of a post attempts to create rigidity for a vertical member such as a post. The post is simultaneously subjected to both vertical AND horizontal forces. It overcomes those forces by the rigidity created by embeddment in the soil or even within stone or concrete. That is an engineering analysis considering the moments created by those combined forces and the reaction of the post. I would have to know a lot more before I gave such an answer. i recommend that you find a local structural engineer to help answer your question because the answer is not a prescriptive table in the code but rather a scientific analysis beased on soil conditions and material properties of the post. Sorry.

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