Codes and Standards Key to Sustainable and Affordable Buildings

The National Green Building Standards serves as the basis for several federal, state, and local building programs

By Dominic Sims

While the adoption and application of the most up-to-date building codes and standards play an integral role in constructing safe and resilient communities, they also lead to more sustainable and affordable buildings where consumers benefit from lower utility costs, greater comfort in their homes and businesses, reduced maintenance, and ultimately increased value of their properties.

Two major initiatives in the building safety and fire prevention industry—the unveiling of the third edition of the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) and the development of the Standard for the Design of High Performance Green Buildings (ASHRAE/IES/USGBC/ICC Standard 189.1)—reflect the latest advancements in science and technology and provide the most innovative options for minimizing the environmental footprint of buildings.

9551S15First published in 2009, the NGBS has been approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and preserves the standard’s tradition as the industry benchmark for residential projects designed and built for high performance. Intended as a voluntary standard but now adopted in codes, the NGBS serves as the basis for several federal, state and local green building programs. In addition, builders, developers, and consumers whose projects are NGBS-certified may receive incentives for their green building practices.

This third edition brings together three industry leaders—the International Code Council (ICC), ASHRAE and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)—who have combined their considerable expertise, knowledge, and credibility to facilitate the development of the next generation of the NGBS. The 2015 edition better aligns the NGBS with the International Codes®, or I-Codes®, published by ICC, while green practices such as energy, water and resource conservation; indoor air quality; lot and site development; and building operation and owner education remain largely intact.

Some significant changes to the 2015 edition are the Energy Efficiency chapter referencing the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code®; expanded builder options by including environmental product declarations for both specific and industry-wide products; and revamped storm water management options that focus on low-impact development.

Individuals can access a complimentary electronic copy of the standard at Additionally, hard copies will be available for purchase through in the coming weeks.

Changes to the purpose and scope that reflect advances in sustainable buildings over the last ten years have been proposed to ASHRAE/IES/USGBC/ICC Standard 189.1. The standard, co-produced by ASHRAE, ICC, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), contains minimum requirements for the siting, design, and construction of high performance buildings in support of reducing energy use, resource consumption, and other environmental impacts while maintaining acceptable indoor environments.

iStock_000055668976_DoubleProposed addenda have been made for the 2018 standard, including: Revising the purpose of the standard to focus on goals vs. strategies. A new section speaks to the alignment of Standard 189.1 with the International Green Construction Code®, noting specifically that the standard is intended to serve as the technical basis of buildings codes and regulations for high performance buildings; reorganizing the roof heat island mitigation section and adding new provisions for vegetated terrace and roofing systems relative to plant selection, growing medium, roof membrane protection, and clearances; adding requirements for water bottle filling stations, which are intended to improve efficiency and sanitation of public drinking water and to reduce the environmental impact of plastic bottles; and adding new requirements for reverse osmosis and onsite reclaimed water systems in order to reduce the likelihood of excessive water use due to poor design of water treatment and filter systems.

The I-Codes are a complete set of comprehensive, coordinated building safety and fire prevention codes that benefit public safety and support the industry’s need for one set of codes without regional limitations. The I-Codes are developed through the governmental consensus process, and because of this openness and collaboration ICC relies on its 58,000 members, industry representatives, and any other interested individuals to provide the highest level of building and fire safety codes in the world.

Developing partnerships with industry stakeholders is paramount to the effectiveness of any system of code development and application. The ongoing development of the NGBS and ASHRAE/IES/USGBC/ICC Standard 189.1—as well as ICC’s work with organizations such as the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers on a new landscape irrigation standard and CSA International on the design and installation of rainwater collection systems—moves us closer to our ultimate goal of a coordinating a safe, affordable, resilient, and sustainable built environment. For more information, please go to

Dominic Sims
is the Chief Executive Officer of the International Code Council. He can be reached through Jerry Brown at