Summary

Heads up to developers, owners, engineers, architects, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, consultants, commissioning agents, insurers, and sureties that do business in the District of Columbia.  There’s a proposed new code in town:  a Green Building Code based on the 2012 International Green Construction Code (IgCC). 

  • DC's proposed version, however, includes some modifications to the IgCC to try and customize it for the DC area and feasibility of application. 
  • See the code here.  
  • The comment period is still open until 5:00 pm on February 22, 2013. Comments must be submitted in writing to Helder Gil, Legislative Affairs Specialist, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, 1100 Fourth Street, SW, Room 5164, Washington, DC 20024, or by email at [email protected]

DC’s Green Code Process 

In the District of Columbia, it is the Construction Codes Coordinating Board (CCCB) that is responsible for finalizing building codes to recommend to the DC City Council for enactment.  A Technical Advisory Group (TAG) is a subcommittee for the CCCB, with each TAG dedicated to a particular model code review and/or revision.  A TAG will vote on any addition or change, which it then recommends to the CCCB.  Once the code is finalized, it is voted on by the City Council.

This proposed Green Code was published in the DC Register on December 7, 2012, for public comment by February 22, 2013 (this date was just extended from January 25, 2013).  The proposed DC Green Code is thus still in the comment period.   In addition, if deemed necessary, there will be a second comment period.  It is intended that the City Council will vote on the code in Spring 2013, with full compliance required by Spring 2014. The CCCB Green TAG is chaired by Bill Updike of the District Department of the Environment (DDOE), with eight members from various sectors of the design and construction industries as well as a representative from the DCRA.  The Green TAG has worked long hours for over a year to modify the IgCC.

DC’s Proposed Green Code:  A Few Key Points

  1. The Green Code would initially apply to all commercial buildings of 10,000 square feet or more and all multifamily residential buildings four stories or higher and over 10,000 square feet.
  2. The Green Code would apply to new construction and substantial renovations.
  3. In order to ensure flexibility, the Green Code would permit alternative compliance paths, including the following:
    1. LEED certification under the DC Green Building Act of 2006 (GBA);
    2. IgCC;
    3. ASHRAE Standard 189.1; and
    4. Enterprise Green Communities Certification under the GBA.
  4. The post-occupancy provisions in the IgCC, among others, were removed from the proposed DC Green Code.
  5. The codifying of a commissioning agent is a new concept.  The commissioning agent could be a design professional or an approved commissioning agent.  The DCRA will have a list of approved commissioning agents.
  6. “Stretch” items in the proposed Green Code were moved to Appendix A, which has about 75 possible project electives.  Of that number, fifteen are required for new construction, and thirteen are required for substantial renovations.  Some are not in the base code, and some are enhancements of items in the base code.
  7. The DCRA will hire a Green Building Coordinator in late January/early February 2013 (name has not been released).  Then the DCRA will hire inspectors and will train those inspectors and private sector inspectors during the next one and one-half years.
  8. The DCRA will issue a Green Building Program Manual by Spring 2014 to provide guidance concerning the DC Green Code.

The Role of the GBA and LEED in Light of the DC Green Code

There are discussions in the development community that the enactment of the Green Code would marginalize the GBA with its LEED certification requirements.  Accordingly, the argument goes, the GBA should be repealed.  Such a position, however, is based on a misunderstanding of the role of LEED certification in the sustainability world.  LEED certification is voluntary, and it is a non-enforceable rating system.  That a number of jurisdictions and entities--from federal agencies, to states, to counties and towns--have adopted various versions of LEED as a mandatory building requirement does not change the fact that LEED was designed to be an aspirational goal, not a code.  Those jurisdictions and entities, seeking sustainability goals, adopted LEED requirements because of a dearth of green building codes.

The IgCC rectified that issue, and now the District of Columbia is in the process of painstaking efforts to refine and modify the IgCC into an enforceable and workable green building code.

Conclusion

Stakeholders in the development, real estate, and construction industries that do business in the District of Columbia should follow closely the adoption of the DC Green Building Code.  The rapid progression of initiatives in the sustainability world necessitates staying on top of the game, including understanding the impacts of the final version of the DC Green Code.  The one-year grace period for implementation of the DC Green Code, from Spring 2013 to Spring 2014, will give everyone time to prepare for the challenges--and the opportunities.