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eGreen Real Estate Brief: New District of Columbia Green Code a National Model


In a report to Congress


"The Department of Defense should continue to require LEED Silver or equivalent rating for major building renovations and new construction. .. the report concludes that green building certification systems such as LEED offer frameworks for successfully reducing energy and water use in buildings."


National Research Council

February 15, 2013

District of Columbia Green Code a National Model   

"alternative compliance paths for privately owned building from LEED to the IgCC, and ASHRAE 189.1 to .." 


The public comment period on the District of Columbia's mandatory green building code closes on February 22, 2013.


The new green code is significant, not only for those constructing or renovating buildings within DC, but because it portends a new green regulatory scheme that may well be a national model.


Appreciate that the U.S. Green Building Council just last month released its annual list of the top 10 states for new LEED® certifications and, once again, the DC tops the ranking, with 36.97 square feet of LEED space certified per resident in 2012 (.. don't be troubled that USGBC refers to DC as a state).


The District was the first major city in the nation to require new privately constructed buildings to meet LEED standards, thanks to the Green Building Act of 2006, effective March 8, 2007. And in 2012 alone, 110 projects were LEED certified in DC totaling 22,246,445 square feet.


On December 7, 2012, the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Construction Codes Coordinating Board published a proposed rulemaking to adopt new construction codes. The proposed rulemaking would adopt the current International Code Council family of codes, as amended by this rulemaking in a new District of Columbia Construction Codes Supplement of 2013, as the District of Columbia Construction Codes. Included in the update of the codes is, for the first time, the International Green Construction Code 2012.


The District is proposing to adopt its first Green Construction Code, which would be mandatory for all commercial projects greater than 10,000 square feet and all multi-family residential construction four stories or larger. The Green Code would apply to new construction and major renovations.


Significantly, there will be alternative compliance paths for privately owned building to satisfy DC's Green mandate:


1. LEED at a Certified level or higher, or

2. IgCC compliance, or

3. ASHRAE 189.1-2011 compliance, or

4. Enterprise Green Communities verified.


Note, all non residential new building projects greater than 10,000 square feet must also satisfy 75 points on the Energy Star Target Finder Tool which correlates to performing at a minimum better than 75% of similar buildings across the country.


Also note that as part of the rulemaking all new building projects are required to use the DCMR Title 12 and the ICC International Energy Conservation Code 2012 which in and of itself results in a high performance building.


And of course District owned or financed projects may be subject to higher standards under the Green Building Act of 2006, including by way of example LEED at a Silver level or higher versus the less stringent Certified level as an alternative compliance path above.


The notice of proposed rulemaking can be found at DC Green Code


All are urged to review the Greed Code and comment in advance of February 22nd. While no date certain has been announced, it is expected that the District's new Green Building Code will be effective in Spring 2014.


The District was a leader in 2006 requiring new privately constructed buildings meet LEED standards and it is again at the forefront today with a regulatory scheme of alternative compliance paths for high performance building. For those who wish to pursue LEED that option remains. However, most private buildings will likely select IgCC compliance as the preferred compliance path. That said, the final analysis of LEED versus IgCC versus ASHRAE 189.1 may be skewed by what the GSA ultimately determines is the federal government's preferred high performance building type.


Further, it is the belief of some inside USGBC that LEED is near the top of or at its anticipated full market saturation point of 25% of new construction starts, and that a more technically stringent and rigorous LEED v4 will cause that top of the market to be greener edging toward a requirement in 2018 that a LEED Platinum project be a net zero green building. Assuming LEED v4 is adopted this summer, the complexion of how green that new version of the rating system is, will no doubt impact what will be built in the District and beyond.


Moreover, there is an analysis to now be conducted on each project. By way of example the IgCC 2012 requires energy performance must be 30% better than the minimum requirements of the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. .. versus the LEED 2009 prerequisite that energy cost be 10% lower that the baseline in a whole building simulation per ASHRAE 90.1 -2007.


As projects are being planned and buildings being designed for construction starts in 2014, the real estate development community in the District has options.


Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance
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Philadelphia, PA 19102

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