Green Money and Green Buildings:An Overview of Sustainable Design and
By Matthew J. DeVries and Angela Stephens
Since 1998, owners have made the choice to incorporate sustainable design and
construction practices into their buildings by following the LEED® Rating System
established by the United States Green Building Council (“USGBC”). Starting in
2003, federal agencies began requiring that new construction achieve a certain
level of LEED certification. Twenty-two states have since mandated that public
buildings achieve certain levels of LEED certification under the LEED Rating
In short, the trend towards sustainability is growing. In fact, state and
federal agencies are looking at green building codes as a means of mandating
sustainable design and construction practices for all types of construction
(both public and private). This is a very good indication that green design and
construction is here to stay. An overview of some of the current and future
green building codes is set forth below.
ASHRAE 189.1 Takes the Lead
One of the green building codes being considered by state and federal
agencies is the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning
Engineers (“ASHRAE”) standard known as ASHRAE 189.1, which became available for
public adoption in 2010. ASHRAE 189.1 is similar to LEED in that it includes
requirements relating to site sustainability, water use efficiency, energy
efficiency, indoor environmental quality, the building’s impact on the
atmosphere, materials and resources, and construction and plans for operation.
This code was designed to apply to all new construction and renovations except
for low-rise residential construction.
It was ASHRAE’s intent that the 189.1 standard would compliment the LEED Rating
System by serving as the baseline for whether the building was sustainable. In
theory, a building that meets the ASHRAE 189.1 standard should also be able to
achieve a LEED Silver Certification.
IGCC Follows Suit
Similar to ASHRAE 189.1, the International Code Council developed an
International Green Construction Code (“IGCC”), which is also compatible with
and similar to the LEED Rating System. The official IGCC was released for public
adoption in March 2012, and includes an optional compliance path of following
ASHRAE 189.1. Like ASHRAE 189.1, this code was designed to apply to all new
construction and renovations except for low-rise residential construction.
Prior to its official release, Rhode Island and Florida adopted the IGCC for
public construction and Maryland adopted the IGCC as an optional requirement for
all new construction. Many states have already started to consider whether to
adopt all or portions of either ASHRAE 189.1 and/or the 2012 IGCC.
Other Green Codes
On January 1, 2011, California created its own green building code called
CALGreen which mandates sustainable design and construction for both public and
private projects. CALGreen was the first mandatory state-wide building code to
be adopted, and applies to residential, commercial, hospital and school
construction. This code focuses on planning and design, energy efficiency, water
efficiency and conservation, material conservation and resource efficiency, and
At the end of March 2012, the United States Department of Defense announced that
it is going to create a green building code based on ASHRAE 189.1, which will
govern all new construction, major renovations, and leased space acquisition.
While the DOD plans on using this new green building code, they do not plan on
abandoning the requirement that their buildings achieve at least a certification
of LEED Silver.
The Economics of Moving Forward
In summary, green building is in the process of going from being a trend to an
every day construction practice. This is especially true as states and federal
agencies continue to look at mandating sustainable design and construction
practices through green building codes. As a cost estimator, here are some
questions to ask that may affect your project:
Are there new materials that will affect the baseline cost? Will substitutes
affect an owner’s ability to secure a particular LEED credit or other
sustainable achievement goal?
Will the sustainable design, materials, and construction methods affect the
overall schedule of the work and the cost of overhead? Is there a component of
recycling that will cost you more time or capture you savings for recycled
materials? Will there be additional training involved based new construction
Will the application of a local or state green building code make it easier for
a building to achieve LEED certification, or will there be duplicative
requirements or barriers for owners who also want to seek LEED Certification?
Is there a post-construction or commissioning plan in place to help capture and
realize energy savings? Are these calculations being reviewed over the useful
life the building, as opposed to the construction timeline?
Green building codes are a good step towards a more sustainable future in terms
of both economic benefits (energy savings) and environmental benefits (healthier
indoor and outdoor environments). However, it will be important that the costs
are properly reviewed during any analysis of sustainable design and
the Authors: Matt and Angela are members of the Construction Service Group of
Stites & Harbison, PLLC, and both are LEED® Accredited Professionals. Matt lives
in Nashville and is the founder of
www.bestpracticesconstructionlaw.com. Angela lives in Louisville and is the
first attorney in Kentucky to attain the Green Advantage® certification. You can
reach the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org
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