Earlier this year, five organizations came together from across the building industry and announced their intent to create a comprehensive green building code. The five partnering organizations include ASHRAE, the International Code Council (ICC), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES).

While these organizations have been working together for years, they have never before attempted to coordinate their efforts into developing one comprehensive code. Now, they have committed to such a task and intend to release a green code in 2018.

Umbrella Document

“We’re trying to bring everything together under one umbrella,” explained Tom Phoenix, president, ASHRAE. According to Phoenix, it can be difficult and confusing for those who want to construct a green building to determine which code or standard to adhere to in today’s marketplace.

“While the energy part [of building codes] is becoming more and more mandated, the total green building approach is not as mandated, yet,” Phoenix said. “So, if you decide to build a building, what procedure do you follow?”

Of course, one procedure currently available is ASHRAE 189.1, “Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.” Other options include the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) from ICC and the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

“The intent of the collaboration is to now bring all of that together, so the confusion is eliminated and you basically don’t have to decide which is the best and which you want to use — it’s all going to be under one document,” Phoenix said.

A press release issued by ASHRAE in August described the collaboration in more detail. According to the release: “The agreement outlines the development, maintenance, and implementation of new versions of ANSI/ASHRAE/IES/USGBC Standard 189.1, and the IgCC, which will be combined into one regulatory tool. This agreement also endeavors to align the LEED program with the new code to ensure a streamlined, effective set of regulatory and above-code options for jurisdictions across the country.”

Core Strengths

Although the organizations behind these codes have been working together for years, they have never before attempted to coordinate their efforts into one comprehensive code. The beauty of this approach, according to Phoenix, is that each organization will bring to the table what it does best.

Brendan Owens, vice president, LEED, USGBC, agreed. “This landmark agreement will leverage the unique strengths of each of the five partner organizations to deliver a coordinated, integrated suite of green building tools.”

For example, Phoenix said, “ICC is going to provide the code language, and ASHRAE is going to be the technical writer of the code.”

He added, “USGBC can bring several things to the table, and they have agreed the new code will become a compliance path for LEED.”

Overall, Owens said, “We are collectively dedicated to advancing green building practices and to advancing the broader industry’s understanding about the importance of green building goals and how to achieve them.”

Phoenix added, “We think it really is a landmark decision because it’s the first time in anybody’s memory that several organizations have come together to benefit the industry.”

Positive Impact

This collective effort is intended to benefit all parties in the green building process, from owners to designers to contractors.

From his perspective as a longtime HVAC designer, Phoenix said this is going to make things a lot easier. As the market currently stands, without a comprehensive code in place, designers must always face the challenge of deciding which code to follow, he said.

“We sit down with the owner and say, ‘What are your goals for this project?’ If the goal is a green building, we ask, ‘How green? What code do you want to follow? 189? Do you want to do LEED?’” questioned Phoenix.

In contrast to this, he said, “Having one quick answer to all those questions is going to make everything easier.”

The ease of this standardized approach should also have a positive impact on HVAC contractors, Phoenix said, as well as building owners and operators.

“I would extend there’s a positive impact on anybody involved in owning and operating a building,” he said. “Having one set of rules has benefits throughout the industry.”

Development and Implementation

The standards and codes the new code will be based on generally follow a three-year development cycle. Since ASHRAE and ICC have recently announced the latest versions of their standards, it is anticipated the new, comprehensive green code may not be unveiled until 2018.

“It’s going to be a few years away, but that’s OK because we have new versions to work with now, plus that will give everybody enough time to put it together properly,” Phoenix said, noting the new document will be developed under the same rigorous, consensus-based control that ANSI requires of all its approved standards.

The resulting collaborative document will be an ANSI-approved standard, and it will also be written in code language. “As green codes become more and more important, this could easily be adopted by the federal government or by states,” Phoenix said.

Green for Greater Good

Summing it up, Phoenix said: “I think this could very accurately be described as an evolution. There’s no one party that’s been a driver — there’s a real desire on the part of everyone to bring this together. …Everybody’s kind of throwing in their part of what they do into the overall effort. Everybody’s giving up a little something, and we’re gaining a lot more. We’re gaining this one document that will really benefit the industry by clearing up all the confusion.”

Publication date: 11/17/2014 

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!