New Green Building Standard May Provide Sustainable Building Framework for Building Codes

A new green building standard backed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is moving closer to approval — and, unlike the voluntarily LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, this new standard may eventually be required as a prerequisite for some new commercial buildings and major renovations.

Standard 189P (Standard for the Design of High-Performance
Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings) could be the nation’s first green principle to be included in building codes, if the standard’s designers — the American Society of Heating
Refrigerating and
Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Illuminating Engineering Society
of
North America (IESNA) and USGBC — see their plan succeed.

Even if Standard 189P makes it, it doesn’t mean LEED ratings will just go away.

"USGBC recognizes a need to reach
beyond the market leaders served by LEED and partnering to develop a
baseline standard will raise the entirety of the commercial building
marketplace to a new level of resource efficiency," USGBC said on its Web site. "USGBC’s vision is
to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and
operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible,
healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life."

The standard is designed to correspond to ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1, developed in the 1970s and still used internationally today in building codes. Standard 189P’s creators hope it can reduce energy costs and carbon
emissions by at least 30% over Standard 90.1,
according to the USGBC. Lighting and water efficiency, indoor air
quality and building on a sustainable site are also be part of the
proposed standard.

So where does it stand now? There are still a few hoops to jump through. The public can send comments to the committee until July 9 — so if you’ve got something to say, say it now — after which point they will be compiled and reviewed. The standard is expected to be published before the end of 2007.

And then … its supporters will begin the task of getting the standard implemented, most likely by lobbying local and state jurisdictions to add it to building codes. In areas that add Standard 189P to the building code, green buildings could be required to meet the standard’s specific requirements to receive a a Certificate of
Occupancy.

The standard’s creators have said they are working to keep its requirement list reasonable and economical to spur its acceptance. The cost factor is another thing to consider — although it’s unclear yet what, if any, costs will be associated with adding the standard to local building codes, it is possible it may be minimal (or non-existent) when compared with LEED certification, which can be expensive (an American Chemistry Council report prepared by the Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants found obtaining LEED certification can add 4 to 11 percent to a project’s construction costs; for large projects, that can be tens of thousands of dollars).

But bargains aside, the real story is the standard’s potential power. Standard 189P could have a major impact in cities like Chicago, where local governments have pledged all new county buildings will be LEED certified. With an already government-friendly attitude toward sustainability, convincing a city like Chicago to incorporate an eco-standard into its building code seems like a reasonable request — and one that could create a green design push in the private sector.   

And from there? The solar-power-providing sky’s the limit.