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New Green Building Code Changes

A collaborative effort delivers a more cohesive building code to help deliver sustainable, resilient, high-performance buildings

Usgbc Sept18 2
Photo courtesy of United States Green Building Council

A new unified green building code comes into effect in September 2018. The International Code Council (ICC) and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have agreed to align the technical requirements of ASHRAE’s Standard 189.1 for High Performance Green Buildings (189.1) with ICC’s International Green Construction Code (IgCC) into one, single model code.

It’s being called: IgCC powered by 189.1.

This partnership between ASHRAE, ICC, American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) that produced this aligned code is a very important and collaborative effort for green building codes. This shared vision reinforces societal health/life/safety benefits that building codes offer, providing resilience to natural disasters, climate change, resource consumption/ management, and service interruptions due to unforeseen events. “It will provide clarity regarding environmental health and safety with specific code minimum requirements,” says Jeremy Childs, senior project manager for Varco Pruden Buildings, Memphis, Tenn. “The new code will also provide a firm foundation to build on for future sustainability and energy efficiency requirements.”

Green Buildings

“The collaboration involved in developing the IgCC powered by 189.1 marks a shift in building design and construction that includes environmental health and safety as code minimums,” says Sheila J. Hayter, PE, 2018-2019 ASHRAE president. “The goal of IgCC powered by 189.1 is to provide fundamental criteria for energy efficiency, resource conservation, water safety, land use, site development, indoor environmental quality and building performance that can be adopted broadly and applied directly to sustainable construction.”

In recent years, green building design, construction and operational techniques have become increasingly widespread. Many homeowners, businesses and building professionals have voluntarily sought to incorporate green building techniques into their projects, and a number of local and national systems have developed to serve as guides to green building practices, including the USGBC’s LEED green building rating system.

The IgCC powered by 189.1 provides minimum requirements for high-performance, green buildings. It is not a design guide or a rating system. Hayter stresses the document was designed to provide compliance options to complement green building rating programs and was not intended to compete with green building rating programs, but rather complement them by establishing what a minimum green building is to allow a starting point for rating systems to build from.

Metal Buildings

The IgCC applies to most building types, including metal buildings. According to Wes Sullens, director, codes technical development, USGBC, when an authority having jurisdiction adopts the IgCC, they will indicate what types of buildings are required to meet which portions of the IgCC.

“Metal buildings could be covered depending on the local requirements when adopted, as well as factors like whether or not conditioned spaces need to meet various code requirements, like energy codes,” Sullens explains. “With that said, the IgCC is meant to apply to the total permitted project, meaning any portion of a project that is covered through the construction permit has requirements, from site landscaping measures, down to the materials that make up the interior, and the control schedules for operating the building. Requirements for recycling construction waste, installing high-efficiency lighting, or selecting low-emitting paints/ finishes are common for all building types.”

For metal buildings and their roofs and walls specifically, there are measures in the IgCC that may affect building design and potentially product selection. For example, “If a metal building is conditioned or semi-conditioned, the IgCC would trigger energy efficiency requirements for the envelope and any HVAC equipment or appliances in scope,” Sullens says. “For plumbing systems, water-efficient fixtures are required to minimize the use of potable water. Interior finishes such as flooring or floor sealants must meet low-VOC emissions criteria. Roofs may be required to incorporate daylighting strategies, such as skylights, and cool roof materials depending on the climate zone and space type.”

Photo courtesy of Therm-All Inc.

Most industry sources believe that installing building materials (even metal) will not be significantly different for projects meeting the IgCC. Some provisions may require additional planning if not already commonplace (such as the management of construction waste). For example, Sullens believes contractors will need to consider how and where to send materials for recovery (recycling or reuse) rather than a landfill to meet the waste diversion requirements.

Jonathan Humble, FAIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD&C, regional director for the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), believes the new code will be beneficial to the metal building industry. “The 2015 IgCC recognizes the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which the ICC also produces. The IECC code does not recognize semi-heated spaces as part of its envelope compliance methodology, which metal buildings manufacturers cater to as one of their primary clients. However, the new, joint IgCC does directly reference ASHRAE Standard 90.1, which does have a category for semi-heated buildings in its envelope compliance requirements.”

Humble also notes that the urban heat island mitigation provisions will remain nearly the same. This section attempts to reduce the heat generated in an urban area through the use of reflective roofing materials. “The new IgCC will continue to have a cool roof requirement. However, unlike like the 2015 IgCC, which allows the use of multiple ASTM test standards, the new IgCC will only allow the use of Cool Roof Rating Council’s (CRRC) S-100 test standard to test for solar reflectance and thermal emittance, which are the necessary components to calculate the solar reflective index in order to determine compliance. The CRRC S-100 is quite expansive as it contains a greater number of test methods to be used for a greater quantity of different roofing products. In addition, for metal roofs it allows for the testing of custom colors as part of its repertoire of test methods available to users.”

Energy Aspects

All building construction types, including metal buildings, will experience improved energy performance when constructed to comply with the new IgCC powered by 189.1. Mike Pfeiffer, senior vice president of ICC, believes the insulation aspect is most noticeable. After doing a word search of the draft, one metal building specific aspect he noticed was informative appendix building envelope tables. “The impact on metal buildings is you have to demonstrate compliance with what will be ASHRAE 90.1, which is the ASHRAE standard for energy code compliance.”

Pfeiffer believes it may require someone at the Metal Buildings Manufacturers Association (MBMA) to do an assessment to find out what changes have occurred in ASHRAE 90.1 relative to the insulation. “Obviously, we are talking about the envelope,” he adds. “What changes have occurred that will impact the industry based on climate zones and insulation levels, have they increased or decreased? What is the standing of the entire envelope? This requires a comprehensive energy analysis. How is the metal building designed? Does it have a liner system with integral insulation? Or, does it have a separate metal stud frame inside the wall, which is used for insulation? [There is] no way to determine the impact until you do the analysis.”

Humble says another advantage of the new IgCC code is referencing ASHRAE Standard 90.1 will allow a more detailed method of thermal assessment for building envelopes constructed using a metal building system. “This method contained within ASHRAE 90.1 benefits metal buildings by allowing the user to design more thermally efficient buildings through the use of a detailed calculation method for determining the thermal resistance of a wall or roof so metal buildings systems can demonstrate compliance versus having to choose the more conservative prescriptive insulation values in the climate zone tables.”

Bill Beals, district manager at Therm-All Inc., North Olmsted, Ohio, says the aligned code will bring more of an emphasis on design, so the building designer must understand the requirements of the roof and wall assemblies. “The insulation itself is not a problem,” he says. “The U-values can be met with fiberglass, polyisocyanurate board products, or insulated metal panels. [These materials] must be labeled and meet the criteria within the scope of IgCC/189.1. Secondly, there are some cool roof provisions that need to be addressed, as well as air tightness and blower door testing. Some cases will now require third-party inspections during actual construction, which is new.”

Samir Mokashi, principal at Code Unlimited, Portland, Ore., says unlike the LEED standard, which is optional, the new code (once adopted) will become mandatory for all buildings. He also believes the continuous insulation requirement will benefit metal panels. He predicts, “If the metal panel industry comes together and insulation values start going up, it will be more attractive as a single system versus a composite between a metal panel and stick build with insulation.”

Hayster predicts IgCC powered by 189.1 will be a milestone achievement. But, she stresses that it is only the beginning. “In forming the historic agreement among ASHRAE, ICC, AIA, IES and USGBC, these organizations envision a new era of design and construction where green codes become widespread.”

Photo courtesy of United States Green Building Council