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Anticipating Maryland’s New International Green Construction Code

In May of this year, Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law legislation adopting the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), giving local governments across Maryland the authority to adopt the code. Although Maryland was the first state in the nation to adopt the IgCC, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon and Rhode Island have quickly followed suit. Several local jurisdictions such as Scottsdale, Arizona and Keene, New Hampshire have also adopted the IgCC.

What is the IgCC?

By way of background, the IgCC is the product of the International Code Council (ICC) and its cooperating sponsors: the American Institute of Architects, ASTM International, ASHRAE, the US Green Building Council, and the Illuminating Engineering Society. The IgCC has been designed to coordinate and integrate with existing codes developed by the ICC as well as existing rating systems such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. The IgCC is a "model" construction code which can be adapted to address local conditions. In fact, the legislation signed by Governor O’Malley authorizes the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and local governments to adopt the IgCC, including any modifications that may be deemed appropriate for local conditions.

The Maryland Building Performance Standards, Maryland's law relating to building codes (Public Safety Article, Section 12-503), requires each jurisdiction in Maryland to use the same edition of the same ICC building codes.  These are the International Building Code, the International Residential Code, and the International Energy Conservation Code. Each local jurisdiction in Maryland may modify these codes to suite local conditions, with the exception of the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code and Maryland Accessibility Code. The Energy Code and the Accessibility Code can be made more stringent (but not less) by local jurisdictions. Before adopting each version of the Codes, the Department of Housing and Community Development determines whether modifications should be incorporated in the building standards, including considering changes “to enhance energy conservation and efficiency.”

The new Maryland law adopting the IgCC does not take effect until March 1, 2012, and so no local jurisdictions have adopted it yet. However, now is the time to coordinate with County building officials as they review the model IgCC and develop amendments and modifications to it for adoption by each local jurisdiction. Additionally, design professionals need to anticipate adoption of the IGCC in each of the jurisdictions in which they may have projects.

Interrelationship with LEED.

The US Green Building Council's LEED voluntary third-party certification program is arguably now the standard nationally-recognized benchmark for green building. Many have questioned the relationship between LEED and the IgCC. This may be important in Maryland as there are currently 14 local governments in the state have enacted LEED-based green building initiatives. For example, Baltimore City requires LEED as a construction standard for most new construction and certain renovations of properties over 10,000 ft.  Baltimore City has also adopted its own green building standards which are specific to construction in the City as an alternative compliance path. It will be interesting to see whether the City will adopt the IgCC, and if so whether it will by adoption supersede its own green building standard.

Irrespective of how the IgCC is adopted by local Maryland jurisdictions, it is clear that green building is here to stay. Recent figures from the US Green Building Council indicate that it has certified 1.528 billion feet of LEED commercial space to date, and are certifying as much as 2.5 million square feet a day.  Several reputable studies have now been published showing that at least in some markets, green buildings cost less to operate, command higher resale prices, and demonstrate a history of leasing up faster and retaining tenants better than non-green buildings. Maryland has certainly claimed its share of green building. The nation's first LEED Platinum building was certified here (the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's headquarters building outside of Annapolis), and by some estimates Maryland has more LEED certified buildings per capita than any other state in the nation.

Anticipating and reacting to the adoption by local jurisdictions of the IgCC will be necessary by Maryland’s design professionals, contractors and developers who want to capture their fair share of this important emerging market.

Matthew L Kimball is chair of the firm's real estate department. He is a LEED Accredited Professional, and chairs the legislation committee of the Maryland Chapter of the US Green Building Council.

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