Building codes assure that safe construction practices are used when
constructing or renovating a building. Modern codes address environmental
concerns such as energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and water efficiency.
While these codes have been adopted in some locales, many building construction
efforts in these areas exceed code. This relates to builders and homeowners
who apply resource-efficient strategies beyond those outlined in building
codes. They often work closely with building code officials to ensure that
these strategies are understood and approved.
Building codes and permits are complex and vary across the country. Many
levels can apply including national, state and local. In addition, non-building
code but related requirements and permits may apply to projects for handling
waste, runoff and pollution.
Many codes do not directly apply to pollution prevention or green building,
however codes can dictate issues such as material selection, energy efficiency,
indoor air quality and water/sewer systems. In other cases, building codes
directly apply to green building procedures, such as in Washington State,
energy and ventilation standards have been included for residential construction.
Applying Codes and Standards
Knowing local, state, and national building regulations is key to a successful
building project. The local Home Builders Association can help to get you
on the right track for your location. The National Association of Home Builders
list of state and local association contacts.
Additional on-line resources for codes and state compliance include:
Industry Compliance Assistance Center explains environmental rules
for the construction industry. Also provided are links to state regulations
and local green building programs.
Council (ICC) - Formed in cooperation of three nationally significant
code professional associations: International Conference of Building Officials
(ICBO), Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc. (SBCCI), and
Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA).
Energy Code (MEC) - The MEC was originally developed jointly under
the auspices of the Council of American Building Officials (CABO), Building
Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA), International
Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), National Conference of States
on Building Codes and Standards (NCSBCS), and Southern Building Code Congress
International (SBCCI) under a contract funded by the U.S. Department of
Examples of Green Rating Programs
Numerous programs also establish standards and voluntary guidelines for builders
interested in resource-efficient design and construction. They cover everything
from whole system design and efficient site-use to thermal, energy, water,
and materials efficiency, lighting, appliances and ventilation criteria, landscaping
The following are a few national, state and local programs that provide standards
and guidelines for green buildings. Many green building programs offer home
certification, or ratings, as well as technical and financial assistance to
builders. Certification generally establishes a home as being beyond code,
a builder as being proactive, and sets the stage for advanced marketing capabilities
- EnergyStar -
standards for energy-efficient residential and commercial products; guidelines
and a rating program for new homes to achieve 30% more energy efficiency
than the Model Energy Code. To receive the Energy Star label, the home must
receive third-party verification that the home meets Energy Star standards.
and Environmental Building Association (EEBA) - goals, objectives and
specific criteria for energy and resource-efficient residential and small
Arizona Green Building Program - specifications and guidelines to meet
entry level and advanced level requirements of the program are shown. It
also provides a rating system for environmentally responsible building with
a focus on a desert environment.
City Lights Built Smart Program - specifications and guidelines to implement
comprehensive resource conservation in newly constructed multifamily buildings.
Green Building Rating System - LEED is a self-assessing system
designed for rating new and existing commercial, institutional, and high-rise
residential buildings produced by the U.S. Green Building Council.
City of Portland G-Rated (Green Rated) - strives to provide guidelines,
standards and research for the green building industry. Current goals include
incorporating green building into municipal buildings and affordable housing.
Guidelines for increasing the environmental performance and durability for
- Built Green Colorado
is organized similar to the Scottsdale program. With a checklist of green
building options, builders score individual homes to receive a BuiltGreen
designation. The Home Builders Association of Metro Denver (HBA) administers
this program with support from state and local organizations.
- The National
Association of Home Builders Research Center provides links to local
green building programs throughout the nation, as well as information about
how to start a program.