What is the International Green Construction Code?

The IgCC is a set of minimum green requirements to meet when building commercial structures. See more home design pictures.

Energy companies always warn customers to be aware of their refrigerators, which are among the biggest energy hogs in a home. But iceboxes may seem like small potatoes when you realize that, in the industrialized world, buildings gobble up a full half of all the energy we generate. Not only that, they're responsible for half of all of the carbon emissions as well [source: Foster + Partners]. To protect ourselves and our environment from these rather destructive behemoths, the International Code Council (ICC) unveiled the International Green Construction Code, or IgCC, in March 2012.

The IgCC is a set of minimum green requirements to be met when building or altering any commercial structure or residential building that's more than three stories tall. Its purpose is to reduce the negative effects of such buildings on our environment. The requirements apply to the entire construction project plus its site, so everyone involved in the building process, from materials manufacturers to design professionals to contractors, is affected. Building officials will be the code's primary enforcers. Here are a few examples of code provisions [source: ICC]:

  • There are set mercury limits for fluorescent lamps
  • Fifty percent or more of construction waste must be diverted.
  • Fifty-five percent of materials must be recycled, recyclable, bio-based or indigenous.

Like other building codes issued by the ICC, the IgCC may be adopted by jurisdictions (in the U.S., that's generally states or cities) or ignored. If a jurisdiction adopts the code, the intent is that it becomes mandatory for all applicable developments, ensuring major sustainability results. However, a jurisdiction may adopt the code as a voluntary set of guidelines. Jurisdictions also may customize the code by incorporating certain requirements that are pertinent to their particular locales. For example, large cities may wish to add light pollution control measures that aren't necessary in rural areas [source: ICC].

In addition to the mandatory green standards the IgCC lays out, jurisdictions must also require individual projects that follow the code to implement one to 14 green "electives" -- anything from a whole-building life-cycle assessment to stricter recycled-content options. The electives are chosen by the project owner, after which they become mandatory, enforceable requirements for that project [source: Melton].

The IgCC is supported by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), producers of the LEED green building rating systems and The Green Building Initiative (The GBI), which created the Green Globes green building rating system, among others. While the IgCC's creator, the ICC, is an American entity, the new code is available for use throughout the world [source: Daggers].