For this week’s Guest Post Friday, Construction Law Musings welcomes Steve Szoke, P.E., LEED AP. Steve is Director of Codes and Standards for the Portland Cement Association in Skokie, Illinois. He graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University, in his native state of Pennsylvania. He is a register professional engineer in Virginia and the District of Columbia.
His accomplishments and activities related to sustainability include past chair and honorary member of the Sustainable Building Industry Council; International Code Council Sustainable Buildings Technology Committee which developed of the draft version of the International green Construction Code; ASTM Committee E60 on Sustainability; and ACI Committee 122 Energy Efficiency of Concrete and Masonry Systems.
Many state and local jurisdictions are developing or considering the development of green or sustainable codes for the design and construction of buildings. PCA has observed that there are currently no national reference standards or model codes available at this time, but these efforts are progressing. Most code development that PCA has reviewed tend to be based on or using language from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) certification program Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or language from drafts of the American Society for Heating Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard 189.1 Standard for the Design of High Performance Green Buildings Except Low-rise Residential Buildings.
The LEED program is not written in mandatory language and tends to be broader in scope than what is typically within the purview of building code departments. The ASHRAE standard is still a draft. PCA has reviewed several of the state and local efforts and compiled these proposed changes into one set of amendments for consideration of adoption for the design and construction of high performance buildings. In addition to the typical “green” or “sustainable” provisions, PCA included provisions for increased durability and disaster resistance.
Adding green or sustainability features to buildings designed and built to the minimum life safety codes just does seem to make sense. Sustainable buildings should be more durable and more resistant to natural disasters, including but not limited to hurricanes, tornadoes, other high wind events, hail storms, floods, structure fires and wildland fires. This is especially true with the extreme weather conditions that are occurring. Over recent years the intensity, extremes and frequency of severe weather has increased. Wildland fires are become more intense. Last year Georgia was in a drought and concerns about wildland fires were paramount.
This year Georgia is experiencing extreme flooding. Many buildings built to the minimum life safety code requirements of conventional building codes need to be demolished and rebuilt or significant portions need to be reconstructed. Deconstruction, demolition, replacement and repair due to severe weather that is becoming more commonplace simply doesn’t seem to consistent with the overlying philosophy of green building. More stringent design and construction requirements will reduce the amount of demolition, replacement, and reconstruction when disasters occur. This philosophy is not currently being addressed in most national model code and reference standards efforts regardless of proposals and pleas by a minority represented in these efforts. Opposition has historically been, “green buildings can be provided” or “safer and more secure buildings can be provided as long as they don’t cost a penny more to build.”
Maybe buildings built to the minimum building code requirements should not be classified as high performance buildings. The approach taken by PCA is consistent with the whole building design guide model adopted as a model by the High Performance Building Council. Fortunately in the United States there are opportunities to amend and append building codes at the state and local level so that building codes may be modified to address regional and local geography, geology, population density, disaster recovery programs, climate, and other conditions and priorities within the jurisdiction. For more information visit www.cement.org/codes/hpbc_ordinance.asp.