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Ask The Expert: There’s a New Code in Town – 2012 IgCC is the First Green Building Code

Move over LEED. The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) is now published and it’s creating a buzz of excitement across the green building industry.

The IgCC development was finalized in October 2011 and published this past March by the International Code Council.   With so many other green building certification programs available – from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Program and the Green Globes’ Green Building Initiative to the Living Building Challenge – many readers may be wondering … what’s so special about the 2012 IgCC? 


The IgCC is not a ratings-based system like LEED or an advocacy program like Architecture 2030.  It was conceived and written in mandatory language with the intent of being adopted by states, municipalities and townships, in the same manner as building codes. The IgCC applies to commercial and high rise residential construction.

“This is a major milestone in green building,” says Amy Schmidt, Energy Code Advisor, Dow Building & Constructon.  “For the first time in history, it establishes a baseline for green building construction and provides code language that can be adopted and enforced by states, municipalities and townships across the country and across the world.”

The IgCC is the 14th model building code published by the ICC.  It was developed over a three-year period with active participation from associations such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).  The IgCC also incorporates public input from more than 100 experts in government, business, academia, code development and enforcement, architecture, building science, engineering, and environmental health. 

“This was a huge undertaking and we’re very excited about the outcome because it sets the standard for green building in a way that is flexible and provides practical guidance -- not just for jurisdictions and code enforcers, but for key stakeholders in the construction industry, including building contractors and their material suppliers,” says Schmidt.

The International Code Council is a widely recognized and respected organization.  Its various building codes, such as the International Building Code, the International Fire Code and International Plumbing Code, have been adopted as law and enforced in more than 27,000 jurisdictions spanning all 50 states.  Already, the IgCC has been adopted as a voluntary code in part or sum total by Rhode Island, Maryland and Oregon, as well as municipalities and townships in Washington, Arizona and Florida. 

How will the growing adoption of IgCC affect building contractors and their material suppliers? 

As with many voluntary rating systems such as LEED, energy efficiency is a focal point of the International Green Construction Code and this is expected to drive demand for more building insulation and materials such as caulks and flashing to produce tighter building envelopes.  But the IgCC also goes well beyond energy conservation.  It also addresses water conservation and water quality, air and indoor environmental quality, and material waste reduction.

Several key standards are highlighted below:

  • Section 408, Heat Island Mitigation. In Climate Zones 1-6, this provision calls for 50 percent or more of hardscape to have solar reflectance, shading by structures, shading by trees, and/or pervious pavement. In Climate Zones 1-3, 75 percent of roof surfaces must be vegetative, covered with photovoltaic cells, or meet a minimum level of solar reflectance.
  • Section 505, Material Selection. This provision requires that not less than 55 percent of building materials by mass, volume or cost shall comply with one of five options:  reused materials, recycled content (25% or 50% combined recycle content and recyclability), recyclability (30%), bio-based (75%), or indigenous (500 mile radius).
  • Section 805, Prohibited Materials. This provision prohibits the use of asbestos-containing materials and urea-formaldehyde foam insulation.
  • Section 806, Material Emissions and Pollutant Control. This standard requires 85 percent by weight or volume of adhesives, sealants, paints and coatings located on the interior side of the envelope to comply with specified volatile organic compound (VOC) limits.  In addition, 85 percent of insulation must comply with VOC limits.

As with all codes, adopting states and jurisdictions have the ability to amend the IgCC to suit their specific needs, so the specific impact of these and other standards will vary from one state or municipality to another.  Ultimately, many view the IgCC as the catalyst that will drive green building into everyday practice and fuel ongoing innovation.  Dow Construction Chemicals is dedicated to answering this ongoing market need with a growing portfolio of products and systems, including:

AQUASET™ Formaldehyde-Free Thermosetting Resins for binding fiberglass filaments in the production of fiberglass webs used in roofing, flooring, insulation and HVAC filters.

RHOPLEX™ EC-3100 All-Acrylic Polymer for use in roof systems to provide adhesion and extend the life of weathered TOP roofing membranes.

RHOPLEX™ 4400 100% Acrylic Latex Binder for use in high-performance caulks and sealants formulated with little or no plasticizer.

“Green building is a trend that keeps gaining momentum in North America and worldwide,” notes Greg Bergtold, senior R&D leader with Dow’s Global Codes Center of Excellence. “We expect the IgCC to speed the trend and open many doors of opportunity for green building suppliers and contractors to grow their businesses.”

Learn more from the links below:

For more information about the International Code Council, go to    http://www.iccsafe.org/Pages/default.aspx 

For more specifics about the International Green Construction Code, go to http://www.iccsafe.org/cs/igcc/pages/default.aspx

For a guide that explains the new code requirements as well as the overall concepts behind green building, go to http://www.iccsafe.org/greenguide.