Patrick Murch, Esq., LEED AP BD+C, is an attorney with McDonald Carano Wilson LLP, a full-service law firm committed to business and economic development in Nevada since 1949. For more information, visit
Most contractors understand that LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects involve sustainable design and construction practices to improve occupant comfort and reduce any negative environmental impacts. However, many contractors may not be aware of other sustainable building standards--certain states and local jurisdictions have adopted their own green building standards and codes.
As a business owner, you must familiarize yourself with sustainable building codes and standards, including LEED, the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1 (Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings) and CALGreen.
LEED administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), consists of various sustainable building rating and certification standards for the design and construction of commercial and residential buildings, schools, hospitals, neighborhoods, retail projects, retrofits and tenant improvements. The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), an affiliate of the USGBC, administers project certification and accreditation to LEED professionals.
Both the USGBC and the GBCI are private entities not associated with any governmental agency. Yet, several governmental agencies, including the U.S. General Services Administration, have adopted LEED as the required building standard for new construction, tenant improvements and/or retrofits. Contractors who perform work on these projects must either have an in-depth understanding of relevant LEED standards or contract with consultants who have this understanding.
LEED does have drawbacks. The LEED rating systems do not constitute legal building codes, and the USGBC does not want (and did not intend for) its rating systems to operate this way. Also, because the USGBC sets its standards without governmental input, they have the final word on whether a project meets the certification requirements.
A contractor will be given significantly less due process in a dispute involving the USGBC's interpretation of LEED building standards than in a dispute involving a governmental building code that applies to all contractors within a given jurisdiction.
For this reason and in an effort to make sustainable building practices mandatory and enforceable, various organizations have collaborated to develop alternative green building standards.
International Green Construction Code
The International Code Council (ICC), the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the USGBC and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) developed the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). According to ICC's CEO Richard P. Weiland, these organizations (along with other experts) worked together over the course of several years to establish “a much-needed set of baseline regulations for green buildings that is adoptable, usable and enforceable by jurisdictions.”
These organizations created the IgCC to reduce the impact of buildings by improving water efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality materials, resource use and the interaction between buildings and their environment.
IgCC has many of the efficiency elements present in LEED. However, the IgCC is not an “all or nothing” plan. A jurisdiction (state or local) can adopt all or parts of the IgCC as part of its building standards requirements, and the jurisdiction has the flexibility to tailor the adopted IgCC portions to meet that jurisdiction's unique needs.
The IgCC does not replace existing building codes, but it instead serves as an overlay for existing construction codes. Unlike LEED, a green building code like the IgCC typically gives contractors the right to court protection if a code-related dispute occurs.
While LEED represents the “gold standard” for sustainable building, the IgCC establishes the baseline for acceptable green building standards. The IgCC and LEED can co-exist, and in jurisdictions that adopt the IgCC, environmentally-conscientious building owners and tenants can continue to obtain LEED certification. Contractors should become knowledgeable about both LEED and IgCC requirements in their jurisdiction.
ANSI/SHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1
Like LEED and the IgCC, Standard 189.1 developed as a result of an extensive collaborative effort among sustainable building design and construction experts. Standard 189.1 is included as a component of the IgCC and is a Jurisdictional Requirement Option that allows an alternative way to comply with the IgCC.
Jurisdictions that want to enact a sustainable building code can adopt the IgCC or Standard 189.1. For example, a state might adopt the IgCC as a statewide building code but permit local jurisdictions to adopt Standard 189.1. And a local jurisdiction can choose between the IgCC and Standard 189.1.
Contractors in jurisdictions that adopt Standard 189.1 need to familiarize themselves with these additional requirements it imposes on existing building standards.
In 2010, California became the first state to adopt a mandatory, statewide sustainable building code called the California Green Building Standards Code (commonly known as CALGreen). CALGreen sets minimum standards for all residential, commercial, hospital and school construction. It should not have a substantial impact on construction practices in California because many of the requirements can be implemented at minimal cost.
Most of the costs (including permitting, plan review and inspection costs) imposed by CALGreen will be borne by local building departments and/or building owners. But contractors in California (and other states that follow California's lead) need to be aware of the CALGreen's requirements and similar statewide sustainable building codes.
Sustainable building is here to stay. Contractors must be aware of their jurisdiction's building code developments to remain compliant.
Green Source: Stay Competitive with the Green Advantage Certification
The demand for knowledgeable green building professionals has rapidly increased. As people specify more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly buildings, they want the contractors working on their jobs to know the latest green building innovations. The Green Advantage Environmental Certification recognizes construction personnel who successfully prove their green knowledge. Pursue certification for you and your team to:
Attain Higher Quality Performance – A study by the University of Florida found that projects using Green Advantage certified practitioners achieve favorable environmental, health and crew collaboration results.
Achieve Third-Party National Recognition – Green Advantage certification documents the successful demonstration of general green building knowledge that is up to date, practical, field-work related and specifically targeted to the construction workforce.
Qualify for USGBC LEED Innovation Credit – If you are part of a team of practitioners who have Green Advantage certification, your project may qualify for a LEED Innovation Credit.
For more information about receiving the Green Advantage certification, visit www.greenadvantage.org.