[Originally posted at EcoGeek. It's not entirely new news, since the Army began adopting ASHRAE 189.1 in 2010, but it's further movement in a direction they were already headed in. It's probably a greater blow to LEED, since the DoD was one of its biggest adopters.

AIA Michigan COTE has been working to get more information about the new International Green Construction Code (IGCC) out to our members, and I have to admit that I'm still not completely clear about how the IGCC interacts with current state building code. I do think that there will be an increasing move toward having green building practice embedded in code.

At the same time, I think that LEED can maintain its leadership by further pushing the envelope. LEED has become very mainstream, and that is both good (in terms of overall uptake of the message) and bad (in that it has become less distinctive). LEED has to finesse the balance between being cutting edge and being accessible. I think, as it has become more and more popular, it has become too ordinary, and it needs to regain some of its distinctiveness and its status as marking truly exceptional buildings.]

[Edit to add: Some further clarification came out after I wrote this original article. See the followup posted at EcoGeek, as well, for a fuller picture of what is going on.]

While the headline may sound dire, it’s not an indication that the US Army is giving up on green building. Instead, the Army has announced it will use a new construction code of its own which is based on the ASHRAE 189.1 standard for new buildings and renovations, rather than continue to use LEED or the High Perfromance Sustainable Buildings standards. This new standard will “govern all new construction, major renovations and leased space acquisition.” The Army had already adopted ASHRAE 189.1 late in 2010.

Some of the impetus for this change is political. In 2011, Congress acted to prevent any Department of Defense project from achieving LEED gold or platinum certification as part of that year’s Defense Reauthorization bill.

Moreover, LEED is fundamentally a marketing program that recognizes buildings built to a particular high standard of performance. At its core, the Army is more concerned about having better buildings that it can operate more efficiently. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Dr. Dorothy Robyn stated that, “With more than 300,000 buildings and 2.2 billion square feet of building space, DoD has a footprint three times that of Wal-Mart and six times that of GSA. Our corresponding energy bill is $4 billion annually.” The Defense Department recognizes the importance of green buildings for its overall operational effectiveness.

The armed forces have been one of the biggest early adopters of LEED, and if all of the services are going to move away from using LEED as their standard for improved performance, that is likely to have a strong effect on USGBC, GBCI, and the LEED program as a whole. “The repercussions of this announcement will be widespread,” notes Green Building Law Update. “For federal contractors, this is a game changer. The LEED AP credential will be less valuable. Past performance highlighting LEED certification will be less valuable, if not totally irrelevant.”

ASHRAE 189.1 is not some lesser standard. It was develeoped by ASHRAE (the professional organization of mechanical engineers), US Green Building Council, and IESNA (the professional organization of lighting engineers), as well as the International Code Council. Moreover, the Army’s action is not unprecedented. The International Code Council has also developed the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) which incorporates the ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1 as a “jurisdictional compliance option.” Increasingly, building codes are going to directly incorporate green measures instead of relying on third-party standards that are merely optional.

Ultimately, this may push LEED in new directions. LEED was meant to push the envelope and to transform the marketplace. In that respect, it has accomplished much of that initial goal. As the industry has moved to embrace LEED, perhaps in the coming years, LEED will again push for even greater improvements in building technology and again make LEED an indication of a truly elite building.

via: Green Building Law Update

[Originally posted on Jetson Green. Notice how I used the opportunity to sneak Randolph Croxton into the article, too. I still don't think he gets enough credit for some of the groundbreaking work he has done.]

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.

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