Baltimore City Council Adopts IgCC

Baltimore City Council Adopts IgCC
By: Matthew L. Kimball

Lost in the noise from the Baltimore City Council’s recent adoption of legislation requiring policy body cameras and banning plastic bags, was news of the Council’s adoption of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).  Although its adoption slipped by quietly, this new building code will have significant consequences for the design of new buildings in the City, and has the potential to impact existing buildings as well.

What is the IgCC?

The IgCC is the product of the International Code Council and its cooperating sponsors:  The American Institute of Architects, ASTM International, ASHRAE, The U.S. Green Building Council, and the Illuminating Engineering Society.  The IgCC has been designed to coordinate and integrate with other existing standard construction codes, as well as existing rating systems such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system.  The IgCC is a “model” construction code which can be adapted to address local conditions.  In May, 2011, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law legislation giving local governments across Maryland the authority to adopt the IgCC, and Maryland was among the first states in the nation to provide this authority. 

City’s Existing Green Building Standards

In 2007, the City Council passed a green building law requiring certain buildings achieve either LEED Silver Certification or a certification under an “equivalent” energy and environmental design standard.  In 2010, the City’s Department of Housing and Community Development issued its “equivalent” design alternative to LEED, which in turn was based on LEED Version 3.2.

LEED Version 3.2 was scheduled to become obsolete in June, 2015, in favor of LEED Version 4.  Because the Baltimore City Green Building Standards were largely based on the older LEED Version 3.2 standard, Councilman Jim Kraft introduced legislation to abandon the City’s Green Building Standards and substitute the IgCC in its place.  Notwithstanding a recently announced delay in the introduction of the successor the LEED Version 4 until October 31, 2016, Councilman Kraft pushed forward with the IgCC, which now becomes effective April 1, 2015. 

What Properties Are Exempt?

As adopted by the City Council, the IgCC requires that building permits applied for after April 1, 2015, conform to this new Code, and there is no grandfathering for projects in the pipeline.

The new IgCC does not apply to:

  • One or two family dwellings
  • Multi-family dwellings that are no more than three stories above-grade and contain no more than five dwelling units
  • LEED Silver Certified properties
  • Residential and Mixed Use Buildings of five stories or more that comply with the ICC 700 at the Silver Performance Level for Energy and Bronze Level for other categories
  • Structures that comply with ASHRAE 189.1 
  • Certain temporary structures, and 
  • Equipment or systems that are used primarily for industrial or manufacturing purposes.

In addition, Code Officials may grant an exemption from the IgCC if the permit applicant demonstrates substantial evidence of a practical infeasibility or hardship, a determination that the public interest would not be served by requiring the IgCC, or other compelling circumstances as determined by the Code Official. 

What Does the IgCC Require?

Here are some of the more notable requirements of the IgCC, as adopted by the City:

Renewable Energy Systems:  All buildings that consume energy must contain at least one renewable energy system capable of producing at least one percent of the total estimated annual energy use of the building.  The system options include:  solar photovoltaic systems, wind systems, solar hot water heating systems, or geothermal systems.  There is an exception for buildings which commit for a period of ten years to buy renewable energy credits for at least 2% of annual energy consumption.

Building Materials:  For any structure with a floor area greater than 25,000 square feet, at least fifty percent of the total materials used must be recycled, recyclable, bio-based or indigenous (i.e. sourced from within 500 miles). 

Site Hardscape:  At least forty percent of the site hardscape must provide at least one or any combination of the following:   porous or permeable pavement with a perc rate of not less than two gallons per minute, porous asphalt with air voids of at least sixteen percent, shading by structures, shading by trees, or hardscape materials with a low solar reflectance value. 

Green Roofs:  At least seventy-five percent of the roof surfaces of buildings and covered parking must be covered with vegetative roof or meet solar reflectance and thermal emittance guidelines, or a combination of these. 

Drinking Fountains:  Fountains that serve public areas must be equipped with at least one water bottle filler.

Native Plant Landscaping:  Where new landscaping is installed as part of a site plan, at least fifty percent of the area must be planted with a native species. 

Changing and Shower Facilities:  Buildings with a total building floor area greater than 10,000 square feet and that are required to provide long-term bicycle parking and storage must provide on-site changing room and shower facilities. 

Preferred Parking:  Preferred parking is required for low emission, hybrid and electric vehicles.

BOMA monitored this bill through the summer and fall, working closely with Councilman Kraft, City staff  and other stakeholders to alleviate some of the more burdensome requirements of the IgCC.  While the bill is far from ideal, it is greatly improved from the version initially introduced.  In addition, there will be an opportunity at the beginning of next year during the City’s triennial review of all the City codes to try to further improve the new code.

Baltimore is one of only twelve local jurisdictions, and one of only a very small handful of large urban centers (Washington, DC, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Boulder and Dallas being the others), to have adopted the IgCC.  It remains to be seen whether this makes Baltimore on the cutting edge or on the “bleeding” edge.  Irrespective, with the April 1, 2015 effective date rapidly approaching and the lack of any grandfathering, it will be important for any developers nearing submission of plans to the City to keep a careful eye on the calendar.  For those that can’t make the deadline, they will have to grapple with the intricacies of this new code and its many new requirements.

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