Sustainability & Codes

Achieving Sustainability

Sustainable building design and construction should begin with improved property protection. In the event of a disaster green features added to a structure designed and constructed to minimum code will often end up in the landfill or otherwise disposed in the same fashion conventional features. For disasters other than seismic events the primary mode of providing life safety is evacuation or otherwise seeking shelter. Collapse avoidance is rarely achieved for disasters other than earthquake and even earthquake design and construction criteria presumes an acceptable level of risk is 10 percent failure (or collapse) in the design event for structures designed and constructed to minimum code. To satisfy the basic premise of sustainability, the cores and shells of buildings must first be more resilient. To achieve an appropriate level of enhanced resiliency for sustainable buildings the Portland Cement Association offers Code Amendments for Sustainability: Modifications to the International Building Code, 2012 Edition, CAS-B12. The document provides specific code language combining the recommendations developed by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety which address natural disasters; recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for flood and storm shelters; and recommendations developed by the Portland Cement Association that minimize the reliance on automatic fire suppression for enhanced property protection, conflagration avoidance, improved performance for structures under construction, areas prone to wildland fires, and fires after disasters. This aspect is especially important for resiliency due to the frequent loss of adequate water supply for fire suppression after disasters.  

The earlier edition of these criteria is referred to as the High Performance Building Requirements for Sustainability, HPBRS. The recommended criteria of the HPBRS modified the International Building Code, 2009 Edition. The HPBRS remains posted here as many jurisdictions continue to use the 2009 or earlier editions of the International Building CodeCode Amendments for Sustainability, Modifications to the International Building Code, 2012 Edition, provides criteria to modify the model building code currently being used as the basis for state and local building codes. The commentary of the new document, Code Amendments for Sustainability, Modifications to the International Building Code, 2012 Edition includes more comprehensive discussion on the code change proposals. 

Both documents uniquely contain criteria for combining sustainability aspects within the purview of the building code official with basic criteria for enhanced resiliency in mandatory language presented as modifications that can be readily integrated into state and local building codes.  

Finally, since many codes and standards efforts are currently consistent with the scope of USGBC Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programs and thus have emphasis on energy, water, and material resource management and conservation; indoor air quality; and site selection and development with a lack of appropriate attention to functional resilience. PCA has also prepared prerequisites for green building design and construction that may be sued to modify LEED programs or sued in conjunction with LEED design and construction criteria. These criteria are presented as recommended revisions to LEED new construction (NC), core and shell (CS), schools, retail, data centers, warehouse and distribution centers, hospitality, and homes. The functional resilience criteria are presented as Recommended Revisions to LEED for NC and CS.

The International Code Council partnered with the National Association of Home Builders to develop the National Green Building Standard, commonly referred to as ICC 700.  Like the LEED document enhanced resiliency is absent for the design and construction criteria of ICC700.  As such this document too is remiss in providing appropriate provisions for sustainability.  Simply adding, often with higher initial cost, green features to buildings that are not adequately durable and disaster resistant is inconsistent with the basic premises of sustainability.  Click here to view or download recommended modifications to the National Green Building Standard that integrate resiliency into sustainable design and construction of homes.