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Green Building News

Talking the Green Code Talk, but Walking the Walk Slowly

In at least one state, adoption of the Green Construction Code came quickly, but debates in North Carolina show why IGCC adoption might take more time elsewhere

Image Credit: International Code Council

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.

5 Comments

  1. User avater
    Michael Chandler | | #1

    We're workin' on it
    A broad based coalition of environmental groups, the USGBC, and green builder-members of the NC HBA led by Chad Ray and Michele Myers are very actively engaged in a letter writing campaign aimed at encouraging our leaders to support the new code and getting people to show up at the NCBCC meetings 9 am Nov. 9th and 17th at NCDOI, 322 Chapanoke Rd. Raleigh, NC.

  2. Steve El | | #2

    Awesome!
    Thanks Michael and friends!

  3. Kim Shanahan | | #3

    NCHBA and its influence
    Success in North Carolina will bode well for the rest of the HBA chapters around the country. North Carolina has over 60 HBA chapters (a disproprtionate number for the size of the state; Arizona has 3) and is well represented by well-engaged Executive Officers. Many of those EOs have risen to leadership positions within the NAHB's Executive Officers Council and could do much to spread the word to fellow EOs around the country. Good luck to Michael Chandler and his NC coalition. If it can happen there it can happen everywhere.

  4. Kim Shanahan | | #4

    I just posted the following
    I just posted the following challenge on the NAHB's Executive Officers List-Serve. We'll see kind of responses might be generated...

    Hey North Carolina EOs,

    Charlotte just hosted the ICC Code hearings where the new 2012 International Energy Conservation Code was approved to mandate improved residential energy efficiency by 30%. Plus our own National Green Building Standard (ICC-700) will be allowed as an alternate for compliance to the proposed International Green Conservation Code. Many of us Western States progressives consider that amazing and fantastic news. But then we read where the NCHBA is urging slow or no adoption based on an understandable concern for our industry’s doldrums. Given that few states will be looking at these new codes until 2013, when we hope to be getting back on our feet, I’m curious as to what individual NC Chapters might be thinking. Chapel Hill green builder Michael Chandler is leading a coalition to convince NCHBA to warmly embrace the proposed codes. What do EOs think? Anyone want to go out on a limb?

  5. Born in NC | | #5

    international building codes????
    I suggest that all you progressive greenies crawl back in the hole you came from..in another state or country. We don't need your spend a million to save a dollar mentality in NC.

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