Last week, the formation of the new International Green Construction Code was announced through the partnership of several organizations already deeply connected with green building efforts. The preliminary version of the model code is now available for public review and comment.

The introduction of this additional green building standard will take some time to sort out. But it should not be viewed as competition to LEED or other rating systems so much as it is a complement to them. (USGBC's active participation [PDF] in the new standard should make that point obvious.) Instead, there is a greater variety of standards available as tools to help all members of a building team produce better buildings.

IGCC is supported by a collaboration of the ICC (International Code Council), ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council), and IES (Illuminating Engineering Society). 

This also combines ICC with the other organizations that were responsible for developing the ASHRAE 189.1 Standard for the Design of High-Performance Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.

ASHRAE 189.1 has been criticized by some groups for not being as tough a set of requirements as it could be, but this misses the broader intent for its application.  While LEED has always targeted the most progressive and forward-looking projects for certification, the new green building code from IGCC should offer a more basic, though less stringent option, that is still more effective than a building that only meets code minimum.

Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO, and Founding Chairman of the USGBC, noted that this new standard helps "establish a higher floor" for green building, which allows USGBC to "raise the ceiling" for the highest performing buildings, according to a statement.  

The IGCC follows a number of development concepts which are explained on the website:

  • Will use the “model” code approach;
  • Will work as an overlay to the ICC Family of Codes;
  • Will provide performance, prescriptive, and pre-engineered solutions;
  • Minimum and advanced levels of performance (green & high performance buildings);
  • Written in mandatory language that provides a new regulatory framework;
  • Will account for local conditions;
  • Reflects the AIA 2030 Challenge;
  • Works in tandem with leading green rating systems; and
  • Designed with local, state, and federal law in mind.

As with the model building codes, the IGCC will follow a regular cycle of review and improvement to increase requirements and push the industry further.

I saw Randolph Croxton — principal of Croxton Collaborative Architects and one of the earliest proponents for what has become green building design — speak in the mid '90s, and he talked about codes and the need to build better buildings: "If you build a building and you say it meets all code requirements, all that means is that if you had done just one thing less, it would be an illegal building.

We should aspire to do more than the minimum, and the arrival of a new standard helps to push matters in that direction. 

It should not be lamented that a milder standard is available.  Most of the buildings that will be built to this standard likely would not have obtained LEED certification.  But this will allow more building teams to create buildings with some clear guidelines that will help them build buildings that are better than just code-minimum.

[PDF] Download a preliminary version of IGCC.