Last month, the International Code Council announced that Rhode Island had become the first state in the nation to adopt the International Green Construction Code, which addresses materials, air quality, energy efficiency, and other factors, and is designed to mesh smoothly with existing ICC safety codes. Under provisions of the Rhode Island Green Buildings Act of 2009, which applies to any public project that is owned, leased, or controlled by the state, Rhode Island adopted the IGCC, version 1.0, as a way to incorporate green building practices in new, existing, traditional, and high-performance commercial buildings.
Embrace of the IGCC, or other green-code variants, seems unlikely to mimic its swift ascent in Rhode Island, however. Last week, at the ICC conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, for example, one point of discussion was the wisdom of the host state’s possible adoption of code provisions intended to improve the energy efficiency performance of new homes by 30%. (The residential version of the IGCC, which references the requirements of the ICC 700-2800 National Green Building Standard, was co-developed by the ICC and the National Association of Home Builders and approved by the American National Standards Institute. It incorporates mandatory measures and a rating system that evaluates construction and performance features such as lot design and preparation, water efficiency, resource efficiency, and energy efficiency. The ICC 700 also can be amended to accommodate stricter requirements.)
Objections and rebuttals
A story published last week by the Charlotte Observer points out that the North Carolina Building Code Council was seriously considered adopting the energy efficiency code when members of the North Carolina Home Builders Association objected to the financial burdens it might impose. One of the NCHBA’s main contentions is that the rules would increase costs for both builders and consumers in ways that would be out of line in a market already battered by the economic downturn. An NCHBA code official, Robert Privott, told the paper that adoption of the entire set of rules in one stroke would be “just too much too quick,” although the association was willing to discuss a compromise that would allow the code to be gradually phased in.
Green-building advocates say cost increases incurred by green-code adoption would hardly be onerous, even for entry-level homes, and one of the code’s principal benefits – a reduction in energy costs – would eventually cover the initial added expense of bringing the homes into compliance. Another factor coming into play is the state’s commitment, backed by Governor Bev Perdue and a $500,000 Department of Energy grant for code revisions, to implement energy-efficiency measures. Those measures, in turn, would qualify the state for millions more dollars for energy-saving programs and, by extension, help boost the state’s employment rate, the Observer story notes.
That the debate over green-code adoption has occurred during the ICC conference naturally brought added attention to the issues. The NC Building Code Council’s energy code committee is scheduled to review the code-revision proposal within the next two weeks, and the full council is expected to consider the committee’s recommendations in December.