Update on Green Building Codes and Standards

I received a great update this morning on the existence and development of green building codes and standards in the United States from a product developer (I’ll call him Bob) with the International Code Council (ICC) that I’d like to share with you.
Here’s what he shared with me (I’ll give some comments a long the way):The National Green Building Standard (NGBS) the very first ANSI consensus standard on sustainable green building for residential construction, was published recently.  It was co-developed by the ICC and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).  It is intended to be used as an optional standard that can be adopted by a municipality to incorporate green building standards into their community.  It specifically makes reference to alternate materials to be considered for residential construction, such as straw, logs, rammed earth, adobe, etc.
I like that this standard is really focusing in on alternative materials. I’m hopeful that someday soon, these will not be included as optional standards, but as much a part of the code requirements as structural engineering. Of course, I don’t want the code officials mandating that some one build with a specific material, I like the flexibility of choosing a material that works for each individual project; however, I would like to see the inclusion of green aspects made mandatory so that we as a nation can improve our “Green Standing” in each of our new projects moving froward.The ICC is currently developing a commercial version of the NGBS, titled the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), which is currently set for completion in 2011, and is also intended to be a basis for green materials used in construction. Both of these documents are meant to encourage the use of alternate materials (some of which have been around for a thousand years), and create a basis for code officials to approve the use of these materials by creating some guidelines and/or methods of installation.

Recently, Bob wrote a new document related to residential green buildings (and to the ICC Residential Green Certification), that is based on the National Green Building Standard mentioned above. Below is the Press Release announcing this study document.

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New Study Guide Assists in Green Home Construction

The International Code Council (ICC) has just released 2009 Green Residential Building Study Companion, part of its popular series of Study Companions. It is the first study guide to reference the groundbreaking ICC 700-2008 National Green Building Standard, developed by the National Association of Home Builders and ICC, and the 2009 International Energy Conservation and Residential Codes.

The comprehensive Study Companion contains 16 study sessions to provide practical learning assignments, expert commentary, helpful illustrations and quizzes with 256 questions to measure information retention. In addition to serving as a reliable resource for those preparing to take the ICC Green Building-Residential Examiner certification exam, the Study Companion is a technical reference that assists with understanding of sustainable building practices. The 2009 Green Residential Building Study Companion is available for purchase by calling 1-800-786-4452.

“The Study Companion approach is a fantastic vehicle for delivering highly illustrative technical information to the building construction community,” Mark Johnson, ICC Senior Vice President of Business and Product Development and President of ICC Evaluation Service said. “Using text directly from ICC 700, this Study Companion includes an illustration or graphic on each page with clear text and commentary to strengthen a deep understanding of green issues.”

The International Code Council, a membership association dedicated to building safety, fire prevention and energy efficiency, develops the codes used to construct residential and commercial buildings, including homes and schools. Most U.S. cities, counties and states choose the International Codes, building safety codes developed by the International Code Council.

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In 2011, Bob will be teaching some green classes in in the United States to continue to spread the word. He informed me that he is continually trying to learn more about alternative construction methods and is always interested to visit existing job sites where homes are currently under construction. In fact, he is currently trying to find somebody that is building strawbale homes either in Minnesota or Wisconsin that he can visit during construction to learn more about the practice, and for an opportunity to photograph the same (so he can incorporate more detail on strawbale into his training programs).  If you are in the middle of a project, are about to start one, or know someone in that position who would be willing to open their project to his visitation, please let us know. Whatever we, as straw bale enthusiasts, can do to help promote this great technology is worth while. So please consider contacting me about your project and helping a code developer learn first hand from your work!

One of the things I thought was really cool about the standards is that straw is mentioned and equally weighted with other natural materials like wood, bamboo, and cork on a “point scale” for green value. This is a good thing in my eyes because those materials (wood, bamboo and cork) are often accepted as main stream materials. Placing straw in the same category may move to take some of the mystery away from it and place it in the “normal” column instead of the fairy tale column.

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