Two Newcomers to the I-Codes
Every three years, the ICC updates its rulebook through a democratic process. “Anyone except staff can submit a code change,” Frost says. “A wide variety of people will propose changes to how certain codes read, suggest that certain codes be deleted, or recommend the addition of new standards.”
The I-Codes are divided into multiple categories, including the International Building Code (IBC), International Residential Code, and International Fire Code (IFC). With this year’s additions—the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), which the industry has been anticipating since the first draft was made public in 2010, and the International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC)—the total number of categories is up to 15.
Designers versed in the I-Codes may be relieved to know that the majority of this year’s changes are editorial in nature—language clarifications and updates to correspond with advances in building technologies and design. The most substantive changes are, in fact, the two new categories.
The IgCC is the first national model code for sustainable design for conventional and high-performance commercial buildings, as well as for residential buildings that exceed three stories. It acts as an overlay to the all I-Codes—specifically the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and ICC 700 National Green Building Standard, the latter of which sets out model codes for small-scale residential construction. It is not intended as a stand-alone construction-regulation document or to circumvent the requirements put forth in the other I-Codes, such as the IBC and the IFC. It does, though, name ASHRAE Standard 189.1 as an optional path to compliance, so designers can choose to follow that in lieu of the IgCC.
“Since it is written in mandatory language, the IgCC is poised to create environmental benefits on a scale unachievable by purely voluntary green building programs such as LEED,” Frost says. Unlike LEED, which allows project teams to pick and choose how to earn their points, the IgCC requires a threshold of sustainable performance in specific areas: Site Development and Land Use; Material Resource Conservation and Efficiency; Energy Conservation and Earth Atmospheric Quality; Water Resource Conservation and Efficiency; Indoor Environmental Quality and Comfort; and Commissioning, Operation, and Maintenance.
The IgCC mandates that projects meet several requirements. For example, a building’s energy performance must exceed the 2006 IECC’s standard by 30 percent. Plumbing fixture and fitting flow rates must be 20 percent lower than standards in the current International Plumbing Code. At least 35 percent of construction phase waste materials must be diverted from landfills, but the IgCC allows a jurisdiction to increase this requirement to 50 percent or 65 percent. Meanwhile, 55 percent of the total materials in each building must be reused or recycled content, or be made of recyclable, biobased, or indigenous materials that come from within 500 miles of the site. For existing sites and buildings, the IgCC requires that whatever is renovated or replaced must adhere to the applicable requirements of the code as though it were new construction.
Much in the manner of a rating system, the IgCC incorporates project electives to encourage architects and contractors to exceed the minimum requirements of the code. A Project Elective Checklist helps the project team identify how its projects can be more sustainable. The IgCC also allows local code officials to tailor the code in accordance with their jurisdiction’s unique environmental concerns and agendas. The additions may include the codes that address urban sprawl, heat-island effects, stormwater runoff and landscape irrigation, and minimum thresholds for water and energy efficiency. The IgCC also contains a table designed to help state, county, and city jurisdictions to determine whether certain provisions should be enforced.
The less-publicized ISPSC code category seeks to improve pool safety and construction for commercial and residential projects in accordance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, named after former secretary of state James Baker III’s granddaughter, who drowned in 2002 when the suction force from a spa drain trapped her under water. The ISPSC requires that suction fittings for all aquatic vessels comply with the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals 16 Standard, a federal requirement adopted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and implemented in 2011. Based on user feedback of crowding on deck areas in public facilities such as water parks, the ISPSC also increases occupant load assumptions listed in the previous IBC edition for decks around water-park aquatic vessels—such as pools—from one person per 50 square feet to one person per 15 square feet in order to address egress concerns.