On May 11, 2011, House Bill 972 was signed into law. The legislation authorized the Department of Housing and Community Development to adopt the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) and permits local jurisdictions to adopt and make local amendments to the IgCC.
Effective March 1, 2012, Maryland became the first state to adopt the IgCC for both public and private construction as a voluntary compliance alternative.
The IgCC is a construction code promulgated by the International Code Council (ICC), the non-profit, non-governmental organization that develops comprehensive national model construction codes. The U.S. Building Council’s more-recognized LEED certification program are voluntary guidelines that only apply to cutting-edge green building design, while the IgCC is a more inclusive code applicable to all buildings.
The IgCC helps establish baseline environmental regulations for new and preexisting buildings. It contains concepts not covered in prior building codes – like site selection and development, building owner education, and construction waste requirements – and it raises the standards for energy and water efficiency above other ICC codes. In order to meet the IgCC’s criteria, a builder must qualify for the code’s baseline benchmarks for all facets of construction and building design.
The code’s stated goal is to improve the long-term performance and safety of commercial and high-rise residential buildings. The regulations are designed not to replace existing rules, but as an overlay code intended to advance already-existing codes. Currently, local Maryland jurisdictions have the freedom to incorporate the IgCC as a supplement to the Maryland Building Performance Standards. The code applies to all commercial buildings and residential properties more than three stories high.
Since the law only became effective in March, local jurisdictions have yet to adopt the IgCC. However, Maryland has a substantial history of progressive green building laws and it is expected the IgCC will see substantial adoption within the state. The first LEED Platinum building in America was certified in Maryland: the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Annapolis headquarters. Fourteen local governments have previously enacted LEED-based green programs; moreover, another ICC environmental code, the International Energy Conservation Code, became part of the Maryland Building Performance Standards in 2006 and applies throughout the state.
Because the IgCC has not yet been adopted by local jurisdictions, lawyers and construction industry professionals may currently interface with county building officials as they review the IgCC and develop amendments for local implementation. The IgCC contains a plethora of regulations that have the possibility to greatly affect building projects should they become more than a voluntary requirement. The rate of divergence of construction waste into landfills, total energy and water efficiency of buildings, in-depth occupancy commissioning, education of building owners and maintenance employees, and the requirement of additional so-called “electives” that further increase a building’s environmental efficiency are just some of the stipulations.
The IgCC contains many provisions that could impact general contractors and subcontractors’ project planning. Some regulations of the IgCC in its current version 2.0 include:
- Energy consumption must be collected for the entire building and for each individual tenant.
- Tenants have the right to access all energy data collected for their space.
- Minimum 25 or 60-year design service life of buildings.
- Building and building site improvements banned in floodplains, whereas the ICC’s International Building Code was more lenient.
- Energy Star labeling or compliance on clothes washers, ventilating fans, ice makers, and dishwashers.
- Smoking areas must be 25 feet from building entrances, outdoor air intakes, and operable windows.
- Buildings are required to have a data acquisition and management system capable of storing and providing real-time updates of at least three years of data.
- Insulation, air-sealing, HVAC, and window requirements are more stringent than the International Energy Conservation Code.
A new version of the IgCC will be published on or about April 2012, and Maryland will adopt this new version approximately three months after publication. The current version is available for viewing online at the ICC’s website (www.iccsafe.org). The ICC will publish a supplemental book, Green Building: A Professional’s Guide to Concepts, Codes and Innovation, concerning the 2012 IgCC. There will be chapters on “Site Development”, “Water Efficiency”, “Building Commissioning, Operation, and Maintenance”, “A Look into the Future”, and “Sustainability and Material Resources.”
William J. Atkinson is a law clerk at Whittaker & Associates, P.C., based in Rockville, Maryland.