Green Building Codes: the alternative to LEED and other ratings systems

The article below was prepared by Scott Wick, summer associate with Kohrman Jackson & Krantz:

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to measure how successfully a building meets various environmental standards. Although acting with the best intentions, many local government officials push for LEED certification in a development project without truly understanding the consequences of such requests. This phenomenon illustrates two common misperceptions about LEED. First, green building and LEED are not synonymous; LEED is merely one of many available green construction alternatives. Second, LEED is not a standardized design guideline intended to replace building codes.

One criticism of LEED and other similar rating systems, such as Energy Star or Green Globes, is that these certification programs cannot be incorporated into building codes and are not specific enough to serve as model building guidelines. In light of these inadequacies, other organizations are developing true model “green” building codes and other guidelines that may work better than a rating system such as LEED for a particular project. These efforts are especially important if, as architects and climate experts claim, no single policy would be better for the environment and saving energy than the creation of green building codes.

Some state and local governments have developed and implemented green building codes. States like California and Florida, or cities like Austin, Texas, represent the cutting edge of local green development standards. However, most states require only minimum building standards and leave the adoption of building codes to local governments. In turn, the majority of local governments adopt a code from one of the family of codes developed by the International Code Council (ICC), a non-profit organization that developed the International Building Code.

The ICC is one of the key organizations working to develop green building standards. In January of 2009, the National Green Building Standard, a collaborative effort by the ICC and the National Association of Home Builders, was approved as an American National Standard for residential construction. Building on that success, the ICC has now teamed with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and ASTM International in the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) initiative. Reaching beyond the limited scope of programs like LEED, the goal is to develop a green code specifically for commercial construction that is specific, reliable, and enforceable and reduces or eliminates the need for post-construction certification programs.

Leading green organizations, such as the USGBC and the Green Building Initiative (GBI), support the IGCC initiative. That the USGBC, the developer of LEED, supports the IGCC initiative reinforces the fact that such rating systems were never meant to and cannot replace standard building codes. Programs such as LEED, Energy Star, and Green Globes have been instrumental in raising awareness of the need for environmentally friendly and energy saving construction methods. It is clear, however, that the future of green development rests in the development and implementation of building codes that incorporate true green standards.

As noted, most states leave the adoption of building codes to local governments. Across the nation, awareness continues to increase and the desire to incorporate environmentally friendly and energy saving principles into development projects is obvious. Accordingly, it is essential that local leaders understand basic principles of green building and familiarize themselves with available resources. The IGCC initiative represents an important step that upon completion will provide local governments with an additional resource that will offer greater flexibility in implementing green building standards at the local level.

While rating systems such as LEED remain a viable alternative, it is essential to understand that LEED is only one of many options. When considering green development, it is advisable to investigate all options, their respective costs to a project and the potential result that will actually be achieved by each option before proceeding. If a certification program is deemed the best choice, it is important to understand that LEED is not the only available rating system. However, at a broader level, it is important to see that there are alternatives to rating systems. Increasingly, local governments are adopting green building codes as a means of achieving specific and reliable green standards to save energy costs and to reduce environmental impact. Rather than added administrative costs to determine post-construction whether a project meets varying standards, the development and adoption of a green code can provide specific and enforceable guidelines to meet standards specific to and important at the local level.

For more information on developing green building codes, check out the following:


Bygningsentreprise said...

Great and excellent!

imoti varna said...

Individuals recognized for their knowledge of the LEED rating system are permitted to use the LEED Accredited Professional (AP) acronym after their name, indicating they have passed the accreditation exam given by the Green Building Certification Institute

J said...

Green building and technology is the future, and may just help us (the US) get back on track, if we act fast enough. So far I like what I am hearing about this LEED program. Are there any specific sites to look up the accreditied professionals?

James Mucci

Michigan refinancing

Connie Carr said...

James, Your question regarding finding a LEED Accredited Professional was a good one. In response, we've posted that information today on our blog. check out the link below: