Code Green, Part 2: Understanding Compliance Pathways In The IgCC

Pathway-TNIn our last post, we talked about the current state of green building solutions in the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). We explained how the existing materials and resources pathway for compliance in the IgCC code currently encourages use of materials with narrow “single attributes” for example, recycled materials or bio-based materials. This viewpoint misses the bigger picture of how a material helps or can impact the environment. A recycled content material might be good but then again it might also require more maintenance or produce more pollution during its creation.  A more comprehensive, third-party, verifiable option for looking broadly at a material’s characteristics and establishing its environmental impacts should also be an option. This brings us to the need for alternative “compliance pathways,” in the IgCC. These are the different ways that builders can comply with the code.

Builders want flexibility and choices for code compliance. Within the code, a list of pathway compliance optionsmay be included that allow builders multiple choices to comply with the code, for instance, when they install housewrap or, run certain pipe or, when lowering the building’s environmental impact by choosing a particular material or resource. Whether builders are insulating, running energy efficient pipe, or lowering environmental impacts with materials, the IgCC should allow multiple code compliance pathways to get the job done.

Using an ISO standards-informed Environmental Product Declaration (EPD’s will be discussed in our next blog)advised by rigorous Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has merit as a broad-based look at a product and as a good addition for code compliance for the materials and resources pathway in the IgCC. As an optional choice EPDs would allow the buildings markets to demonstrate the environmental impact of its products, voluntarily (it’s an option), through a verified, third-party, fully-vetted process. This process encourages market competition to demonstrate overall low environmental impacts of products (not just one attribute) and drives awareness of overall lower product impacts on the environment, educating everyone, which is good for the environment and good for us all.

This year we are promoting an optional pathway to materials and resource compliance in the IgCC. We propose Environmental Product Declarations (again, more on EPDS in our next post) be included in the new updated IgCC code as ONE of the material and resource compliance pathways. As an option, this preserves builder flexibility and allows the market to advance competition for products with lower environmental impacts. Even more, it can make determining compliance with the code easier for adjudicating code officials. All the background an official needs is present in a completed EPD: ISO informed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data uniformly presented.

For our next “Code Green” series of posts, we’ll be explaining some of the key terms in this proposal, like Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), Product Category Rules (PCR), and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Stay tuned!

» Code Green, Part 1: Green Building Materials and Resources in the “Mother of All Green Codes”