After a few false starts, the International Code Council (this being the code writing body for the US…) finally prevailed with the new Int’l Green Construction Code, to be available in Spring 2012. Already there is press about the great leadership of the US in setting the example of providing such a code. Hoorah for us! I think…It often baffles Europeans how we can have codes which are not really law, until the governing code bodies, either statewide or by individual jurisdiction, vote that code into law. Of course this is after they made modifications in the codes to suit them. And.. the local AHJ is still lord of his own domain.
What I find interesting is the comments which some readers left concerning this new Green Code. “This is communism, plain and simple. Our Freedom is history…” At least this gentleman has his Freedom of Speech. But for the sake of discussion... Communism, as experienced in the Soviet Union, tended to produce some of the worst built buildings, which were almost immediately in disrepair and certainly not energy efficient. And, let’s not forget that this code can be voted in by the local AHJ’s, who are hired by the free citizens of the municipality or state… So NOT communism.
Based on this gentlemen’s last name, he is of German origin. Had his forefather’s not immigrated, he could be living in one of the growing number of communities throughout Germany who have mandated very aggressive energy efficiency standards. Indeed, in many of the countries of Europe, many of the new requirements in the IgCC have long been enforced codes. Such as not being able to build a new big box store on a greenfield while there are existing empty big boxes, or recycling construction waste, or controlling toxicity on materials.
In fact, he might notice that many of the greenest of “green” has not come from the US, but from overseas: Passivhaus, the Carbon Trust , or that the USGBC LEED’s highest ranking of Platinum would only score “very good” (second highest) on the BREEAM system used in the U.K. . Or that Life Cycle Analysis is much further developed in Europe, and the old British Empire countries than in the U.S.
I respect all the hard work of the AIA, ASHRAE and the ICC, and in fact commiserate with the political realities they have to face, when trying to push forth what is truly good "for the public welfare." But I write this as a reminder that the world is indeed many steps ahead of the US in this particular domain and urge us all to adopt the carbon-neutral 2030 goal, encourage our local AHJ’s to adopt this new Green Code and to make changes for it to be even more aggressive. For when 100% of the US is indeed actively engaged in trying to meet this green goal in both new construction and remodel, that will be something to be proud of.
Reprinted 1-10-2012 in GreenBuildingAdvisor.com