Industry organizations team up to deliver a single sustainable design framework

In August, a group of major organizations in the design, engineering, and construction communities announced a joint effort to bring together numerous green and sustainability codes and standards under a unified framework. The goals are to raise the bar for sustainable design and construction and streamline processes by finding common ground and eliminating duplication of efforts among the organizations.

The new initiative involves the International Code Council (ICC), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), American Institute of Architects (AIA), U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). The group will work together on the development, maintenance and implementation of the new Standard 189.1, “Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings,” and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), which will be combined into one regulatory tool.

This coming together of organizations to streamline their efforts toward shared goals has been in the works for some time.

“These organizations came together in 2011 when we were developing the first edition of IgCC and part of that agreement was to publish the 2012 IgCC using ASHRAE 189.1 as a compliance option,” recalled Dominic Sims, chief executive officer of ICC. “The idea also was over the interim period to develop a process that would harmonize our two activities.  Many stakeholders have to put forth a lot of effort to participate in both the ICC and ASHRAE processes. Through our cooperative efforts our collective members and stakeholders will save time and expense through the new consolidated streamlined process.”

“ASHRAE, USGBC, and IES established an earlier agreement in 2010 to include Standard 189.1 in the IgCC as an optional compliance path. Every edition of IgCC produced since hten has included 189.1,” said Tom Phoenix, P.E., 2014-2015 ASHRAE president and principal and vice president of Moser Mayer Phoenix Associates in Greensboro, N.C. “This most recent announcement is the natural evolution of that earlier agreement. Instead of producing two separate green building documents, the Standard 189.1 team of ASHRAE, USGBC and IES will partner with ICC and AIA to create a single document.”

“AIA has long had a policy of ‘one code,’ meaning one single set of coordinated regulatory documents,” explained Henry Kosarzycki, AIA, chair of the AIA Codes and Standards Committee. “Working closely with ICC as one of its strategic partners in the creation of the IgCC, consolidation with ASHRAE 189.1 was a logical next step toward implementation of that policy. USGBC’s use of the new document as the baseline for LEED is the extension of that effort. AIA’s involvement with ICC goes back to [ICC’s] inception in 1994, and the partnership to develop the IgCC goes back to 2008.”

The LEED certification program has long turned to standards like ASHRAE 189.1 to provide compliance paths, and this unified effort will see this joint document incorporated into the popular green building program.

“This agreement also endeavors to align the LEED program with the new code to ensure a streamline, effective set of regulatory and above-code options for jurisdictions across the country,” said Marisa Long, communications director at USGBC. “The new partnership aims to create a comprehensive framework for jurisdictions looking to implement and adopt green building regulations and codes and provide incentives for voluntary leadership programs such as LEED.”

With so many approaches to sustainable design and building, the idea of this partnership is to streamline the processes of the codes and standards bodies and ease confusion on the design and construction side as well.

“The primary goal is to harmonize green building codes, green building standards and the LEED rating system prerequisites, and combine resources to create a single more influential document that can drive greater acceptance in the building community,” Phoenix said. “Combining resources will give the 189.1-based IgCC greater acceptability and make sure all interested parties are driving the content of a single influential green building code. The fact that the code will serve as a prerequisite for LEED further aligns resources.”

“We wanted to focus on the positives and things we could all agree to,” Sims said. “One thing the standards developing organizations have learned over the last 10 years or so is that just producing more codes and standards is not always the solution the industry is looking for. Eliminating some of that duplication is good for the industry.”

“Our intent was to reduce the confusion among community leaders where decision making is never easy, or straightforward when it comes to adoption and implementation of advanced policies,” Kosarzycki said.

Making things easier for those interested in pursuing sustainable design is an important element of the partnership. But as Koszrzycki pointed out, this kind of high-level industry collaboration can serve the higher purpose of inspiring ever more healthy and efficient buildings. He sees the potential for transformation.

“We also want to provide a consolidation of industry efforts toward heightened sustainable design and construction,” Kosarzycki said. “A greater understanding and agreement on methods and means to obtain sustainable design goals can be attained, and the code as a base minimum is part of that. While competition can promote an evolution of design, focusing the entire industry can spark a revolution.”

The finishing touches are being put on IgCC 2015, so with the standard three-year code cycle, these changes will impact the 2018 edition of the model code. That gives some time to develop the proper strategy and approach.

“The next step is to appoint a steering committee to oversee the transition and then I believe the new ASHRAE 189.1 committee, with the additional stakeholders that are part of this agreement, will probably start working in the early part of 2015,” Sims said. “The first thing they will focus on is harmonizing the technical content and bringing some of the IgCC content into 189.1. All of that will go through the ASHRAE process, which will take the better part of the year. Then at some point, ASHRAE will hand off that technical content to ICC and we’ll take it through a cycle to add to the administrative and enforcement requirements.”

Bringing together so many organizations, each with its own methods and procedures, is never easy, but it is something that the participating parties are dedicated to.

“With any new venture involving the cooperative efforts of multiple organizations, there are issues that will arise,” Kosarzycki said. “However, a program and game plan including a timeline have been put in place initially to ensure that this long term endeavor starts out right.”

Plumbing professionals can be sure that the new IgCC/Standard 189.1 framework will continue to address water efficiency and also the relationship between energy and water delivery.

“The relationship between water and energy is already accounted for to some degree in Standard 189.1. Optimum efficiency can only be achieved by looking at all mechanical systems as a single integrated building design,” Phoenix said. “The relationship between water and energy is a natural part of that integration.”

“Energy in every application and use are of high importance, as is the critical need to ensure adequate and appropriate resources within structures into the future,” Kosarzycki said. “Where, when, and how water is delivered, water sources and how they are deployed will continue to be a critical part of any code focusing on sustainable design.”

“To the extent that IgCC and ASHRAE currently address those areas, I’m sure there is going to be work and improvement in both water and energy,” Sims said. “We have a host of stakeholders interested in energy and water conservation, so we’re excited about the opportunity it provides the industry and policy makers.”

“We are excited about the full integration of Standard 189.1 into the IgCC,” Phoenix said. “Aligning strong organizations and stakeholders has been challenging, but the resulting documentation will help drive our communities to be more sustainable.”

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