Designing high-performance buildings using 189.1
Standard 189.1 and LEED
The value systems of 189.1 and the LEED rating systems are intrinsically connected. This is obvious in the shared categories that they address. Simply put, LEED raised the level of conversation about sustainable building design and established it as a common practice in the building industry. Now, ASHRAE Standard 189.1 translates those principles into a design standard ready for code adoption. Taking a deeper look, there are several important distinctions to understand:
1. LEED was developed as a voluntary program, and organizations made a choice to participate as a way to show a commitment to sustainability. Though mandates to obtain LEED certification for some government facilities do now exist, LEED is still optional for most commercial and institutional projects. 189.1 is a tool that allows jurisdictions to adopt these high-performance building characteristics through enforceable building codes.
2. The distinction of 189.1 as a code-enforceable document is important in understanding its relationship to LEED. Building codes provide a minimum standard of care and safety for buildings and their occupants. Their enforcement affects the ability to obtain permits to begin construction and for occupancy after construction is complete. This is in stark contrast to projects voluntarily pursuing LEED certification, which must submit preliminary information during design, but do not undergo a final review until after the design and construction is completed, and are not prevented from being occupied if they are not awarded certification.
3. The LEED rating system provides the flexibility to pursue a variety of credits to achieve certification but, other than prerequisites, does not dictate which sustainable design principles a project must emphasize. 189.1 is not a credit system; it is a complete model standard. To fully comply with the 189.1 standard, the design needs to address every element through both mandatory requirements and either a prescriptive or performance path.
4. A governing jurisdiction can elect whether to implement 189.1 language as-is into code or customize elements to create its own standards. Project teams pursuing LEED certification do not have the opportunity to make wholesale changes to the language or process.
Standard 189.1 and IgCC
In addition to Standard 189.1, jurisdictions have the option to adopt the International Code Council’s (ICC) IgCC to enforce minimum green building standards. The IgCC follows a LEED-inspired outline similar to 189.1 and follows the format of other ICC codes. That familiar format—combined with the fact that the IgCC, in section 301.2, allows 189.1 as an alternative compliance path—makes it an appealing option for jurisdictions already using the ICC based code templates.
The International Code Council (ICC) first introduced the public version of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) in 2010. After undergoing two rounds of public comment, a full cycle of code development was held in 2011, which was followed by the official release of the 2012 IgCC to provide “model code regulations that contain clear and specific requirements with provisions that promote safe and sustainable construction in an integrated fashion with the ICC Family of Codes.” The code is currently slated to be formally updated and re-released every three years.
Although ASHRAE Standard 189.1 may not immediately impact your projects, it is important to be aware of its requirements and intent and pay close attention to whether or not local code officials are considering its (or the IgCC’s) adoption. Be sure to understand how code changes are adopted and implemented in your jurisdiction. Staying ahead of the implementation of potentially significant changes such as these will provide time both to internally adjust to the new requirements and to educate clients on how future projects may be affected.
Get involved in the process if possible, whether providing comments during public review periods, attending public meetings, or applying to serve as a volunteer member of a local code advisory board. The more you know about the change, the more prepared you will be to minimize the impact on your firm and your clients.
Patrick A. Kunze is a senior principal and mechanical section head of the interiors studio with GHT Limited. Kunze has provided mechanical engineering design for more than 20 projects that have achieved U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification, including the USGBC’s headquarters; contributed to the development of questions for the current LEED AP exam; and currently sits on the Green Technical Advisory Group subcommittee of Washington, D.C.’s Construction Codes Coordinating Board.
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