Architects and owners looking to construct high-performance buildings have a number of options to guide the process. Certification programs, like those offered by the U.S. Green Building Council, the International Living Future Institute, the Green Building Initiative, and the International Well Building Institute, provide frameworks for decision-making and myriad pathways to achievement. But these systems are all optional.

The International Code Council (ICC) hopes to bridge the gap between elective rating programs and prescriptive building codes with the recent release of the 2018 International Green Construction Code (IgCC). This third iteration of the code was developed in a joint effort with ASHRAE, which previously offered its own sustainability standard, ASHRAE 189.1, alongside the IgCC. Recognizing the need for synthesis and collaboration, the organizations merged ASHRAE 189.1 into the 2018 version of the IgCC.

Another Green Code?
Given the number of voluntary sustainable rating programs, a green building code may seem redundant. But “a building code is much more prescriptive and is generally meant to raise the floor rather than elevate the ceiling,” says Kim Shinn, a senior principal and sustainability consultant based in Nashville office of TLC Engineering for Architecture. In contrast, he continues, rating programs are a collection of best practices that target the part of the marketplace that wants to do better than the code. As Shinn sees it, the IgCC gives communities the opportunity to establish their sustainable design priorities using verified code language from the model code. These priorities, once integrated into the building code, could then be enforced as law by the jurisdiction’s code officials. “The IgCC is the perfect avenue for communities to adopt tested sustainable code language into their local amendments,” he says.