Rules and regulations to implement Rhode Island's Green Buildings Act (2009-S 0232B) are scheduled to take effect in October. Rhode Island is the first state to adopt the International Green Construction Code (IGCC).
The measure, signed into law late last year, identifies the IGCC as an equivalent standard in compliance with requirements that all public agency major facility projects be designed and constructed as green buildings.
"I think that we are very fortunate in being a smaller state in that we can move things along a little quicker than other states," Rhode Island State Building Code Commissioner John Leyden said. "We adopt the other I-Codes, and so it fits in nicely."
The IGCC applies to new and existing, traditional, and high-performance commercial buildings. It includes ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1 as an alternative compliance requirement.
"The emergence of green building codes and standards is an important next step for the green building movement, establishing a much-needed set of baseline regulations for green buildings that are adoptable, usable, and enforceable by jurisdictions," International Code Council (ICC) Chief Executive Officer Rick Weiland said. "The IGCC provides a vehicle for jurisdictions to regulate green for the design and performance of buildings in a manner that is integrated with existing codes as an overlay, allowing new and existing buildings to reap the rewards of improved design and construction practices."
In addition to ICC, cooperating sponsors of the IGCC are the American Institute of Architects, ASTM International, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and the Illuminating Engineering Society.
In August, Richland, Wash., became the first city globally to adopt the IGCC as a non-mandatory document for commercial buildings.
Rhode Island's law applies to new construction of more than 5,000 square feet and renovation of spaces greater than 10,000 square feet if such projects receive any funding from the state.
Under the law, building design must conform to USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system or an equivalent high-performance green building standard, including the Northeast Collaborative for High-Performance Schools Protocol.
Those standards are designed to promote a whole-building approach to sustainability in the following areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development; energy and water efficiency; improved indoor air quality; and environmentally sensitive use of resources and materials.
At least 45 states and 195 localities nationwide have enacted LEED initiatives, including legislation, executive orders, resolutions, ordinances, and policies, according to Connie McGreavy, founder and chairperson of the Rhode Island Green Building Council, whose members advocated for the bill.
Besides increasing energy efficiency and reducing buildings' negative impacts on the environment, the standards are believed to provide for the health and well-being of building occupants because they include air-quality improvements that reduce emissions of harmful greenhouse gases and other toxins while increasing the use of natural sunlight and improving acoustics. The standards also favor construction in locations that encourage walking and the use of clean transportation, and require that building occupants be instructed in how to properly operate and maintain green buildings to maximize environmental features and benefits.
The law was written to stand the test of time by allowing for the use of new versions of the standards as they develop. While the LEED standard is the most widely recognized green building rating system today, as technology and environmental science evolve, so too do the standards. Because the law allows for other equivalent high-performance green building standards to be used, it is designed to remain relevant until green building practices are mainstreamed into the state's building and energy conservation codes.