New building-code and green-building initiatives continue to gain clout as a potent force in the design and construction marketplace, and could in some cases eclipse the longtime “enviro” driver of materials reformulation and innovation—the government regulation.
|Voluntary but influential: The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system has altered the design and construction landsape, but new “green” building code provisions present a whole different set of rules. Shown here is the LEED Platinum-certified Hyatt Center in Chicago.|
That’s a key theme to be conveyed during a timely and topical virtual learning conference (VLC), “Green Building Standards and Codes,” scheduled for this Thursday, Feb. 9 and presented by the American Coatings Association (ACA).
New building-code and green-building programs in some cases are charging ahead of national, regional or local government regulations in driving down VOC limits or otherwise forcing changes in the content of paint, coatings and other building products, ACA says.
Timothy Serie, ACA general counsel, government affairs, is scheduled to provide detailed background on the emergence of new green-building standards and codes, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system, the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) and the California Green Building Standards Code (CALgreen).
The webinar will provide information “on the scope, applicability, and indoor air quality requirements of emerging green-building standards and codes affecting the industry,” ACA said. More information and registration: Green Building Standards & Codes Virtual Learning Conference.
Under the Radar?
“What’s significant here is the fact that these are entering the picture outside of the regulatory process, and are moving faster than federal and state architectural coatings regulations,” Serie told Durability + Design. “And this is outside of the regulatory process that government agencies must comply with, which requires public notice and comment and stakeholder involvement.
|The coatings industry successfully lobbied against a proposed VOC rule on paints and coatings in New York City.|
“Some of these standards have substantial stakeholder involvement, whereas others have little or none,” he said.
It’s common for the code-development organizations such as the International Code Council or CALgreen to simply incorporate an existing regulation—for example a regional VOC rule in California or the Northeast—without taking into account the effect on manufacturers or users of products. Such provisions then are commonly adopted as part of national or local building codes, making them mandatory, Serie said.
“These requirements get inserted (in codes), and then there’s all this uncertainty afterwards as to what it means,” Serie said. An example is the ICC’s recently finalized International Green Construction Code (IGCC). Under the code, 85% of architectural coatings applied to interior spaces must comply with the VOC content limits of the 2007 California Air Resources Board (CARB) Suggested Control Measure (SCM) for architectural and industrial maintenance coatings.
More on IGCC: International Green Construction Code Finalized.
Alternatively, these products can comply with VOC guidelines as determined by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) rule 012350, which mandates small-chamber environmental testing to determine actual emissions of a list of VOCs.
The ICGG is scheduled for publication in the next few months. Other green-building code programs include ASHRAE 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Buildings. NSF International and Underwriters Laboratories’ UL Environment unit are in early discussions of developing a joint, health-based standard for VOC emissions from building products and interior furnishing products.
Emissions Testing Gaining Traction
Architectural coatings used in building interiors may in fact increasingly become subject to emissions testing in environmental chambers to meet the requirements in codes or green-building programs, Serie said. Emissions testing, as opposed to content limits, is a costly proposition for manufacturers, he said.
“LEED is moving in that direction,” Serie said, adding that draft language under consideration as part of an update to LEED for New Construction calls for environmental-chamber emissions testing. That would replace the current content-based requirements for credits under the indoor environmental quality provision of the program.
“It’s a whole different scheme, and the emissions testing is very expensive,” Serie said. “It can be in the thousands of dollars to get each individual product tested.”
The revision to LEED 2012 is under consideration despite the experience with the USGBC’s LEED for Schools rating system. Serie said LEED 2009 for Schools initially mandated emissions testing for paint and coatings products, but was revised to allow content-based limits as an alternative approach.
“They couldn’t find enough products” that had met the emissions-testing stipulation, he said.
Serie emphasized that while LEED is a voluntary program that relies on optional credits that contribute to certification of projects, building codes are mandatory policies adopted by public authorities.
As an example of how green-oriented building-code measures can emerge without much warning or involvement on the part of “stakeholders,” ACA cites the recent rise and fall of a proposed VOC regulation on coatings and adhesives in New York City. (See New York City Drops Controversial VOC Plan for Architectural Coatings.)
The provision was dropped from legislation that would have set VOC content limits as part of the city’s administrative and building codes. The measure differed significantly from existing VOC rules on architectural and IM coatings, imposed by the state of New York and other authorities in the 13-state Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) in the northeastern U.S.
The proposed regulation originated with the submission of a report to the city from the New York chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. The report, “NYC Codes Task Force,” was aimed at assisting the city in “greening” of its building and construction codes.