AIA: Why Teaming up with ICC on IGCC Makes Sense

By Felicia Oliver, Editor, Building Safety Journal Online

ICC COO Dominick Sims, ICC Board Member and SBTC Chair Ravi Shah, AIA Board of Director's member Don Brown, ICC Board President Jimmy Brothers, and ICC CEO Rick Weiland.
Pictured from left to right: ICC COO Dominick Sims, ICC Board Member and SBTC Chair Ravi Shah, AIA Board of Director's member Don Brown, ICC Board President Jimmy Brothers, and ICC CEO Rick Weiland.
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Don Brown, AIA, is a member of AIA’s Board of Directors, as well as a member  of its Board Advocacy Committee -- the board committee that includes AIA’s Codes and Standards work. The AIA is one of the Cooperating Sponsors with the Code Council on the development of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC). ASTM International also is a Cooperating Sponsor; the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) joined the ICC/AIA/ASTM team in developing the IGCC.

Brown says the development of a green model code was very important to AIA membership.

“It is important for us to have a single model code,” Brown said. “ICC and its derivatives are that code. We all benefit if we have one set of metrics, one set of standards to measure… so that as we practice across the country, we do so consistently on the same level of expectations. It helps our members, it helps code officials, and it helps the public to have one model code.”

Brown says it just makes sense that architects play an instrumental role in the development of a green code.

“Architects ‘drive the race car,’” he says. “Architects are the ones that assemble buildings. We ought to take a role in planning attributes that are achievable, that make good sense for safety and welfare. That is a thesis statement for codes in general.

Brown attended every meeting of the Code Council’s Sustainable Building Technology Committee (SBTC ). The SBTC assembled Work Groups, with members who have expertise on select topics relevant to the development of specific IGCC content. These groups were chaired by a member of the SBTC and comprised of both SBTC members and interested parties. But ultimately, members of the SBTC hammered out the basics of Public Version 1.0 of the IGCC.

“It was five weeks, day and night, of somebody talking about some minutia of some metric,” Brown explained. “Everybody with a dog in the fight, everybody with an interest in some component, was part of that discussion. But none of them dealt comprehensively with all the design professionals, all the challenges, all the priorities, dollars, systems and measurements that an architect does. So it was critical and appropriate for those of us who drive the race car to help design it.”

“I don’t know how to define a standard for an achievable light level,” Brown added, “but Jack Bailey, one of the SBTC members, a lighting consultant from New York, a brilliant guy -- no pun intended --he knows,” emphasizing the importance of having the experts in particular areas involved in the IGCC development process.

Similarly, the architects in attendance at the meetings were able to share the consequences of some attributes meeting participants suggested for the code.

“We were able to make adjustments in some of the metrics and in some of the requirements that make much more sense from our view that from someone who only knows about that one attribute,” Brown explained. “If some folks had their way, all buildings would be cubes, because that’s the most efficient ratio from inside space to an exterior wall.”

At the end of the day, Brown and the AIA believe that the IGCC is adoptable, usable and enforceable.  It has standards that are achievable and practical, versus goals that are more aspirational.
“Those of us in leadership want a code that jurisdictions can adopt, “Brown said. “The unique thing about this code…is it’s a baseline characteristic. [It’s easy for] jurisdictions to adopt the formal code with additional attributes that the community feels are important. I’m absolutely satisfied that the structure of this code is the right way to proceed.”

Though AIA member ship supports the IGCC, there is still work to do in educating its membership on the particulars of the code. Not everyone is at the same level of familiarity.

“Level one is just awareness that there is a code, people don’t know much about, “Brown says. “There’s the next step of being intimately familiar with the contents of the codes and its attributes, but you haven’t used them yet. The third level is a working knowledge…which means [someone] has actually [used it], has driven the car around the block. And at the fourth level are those experts that are teaching others.”

“I’ve given a series of lectures on the green code, both publicly and with AIA,” added Brown. “Right now we are still getting people from level one to level two. Our commitment at AIA is to continue to work on that level one awareness, (at) level two, give them familiarity, and then in specialized courses, different meetings over time, give people specialized knowledge about its contents, and people in our profession develop fluency as they have with a number of other processes.”

The AIA, like so many other organizations, has budget concerns because of the economy, and as a result, there are certain ventures and initiatives that they put on hold. But when it comes to the IGCC, AIA is in ramp up mode.

“This lovely venture called the SBTC occurred, and we have an astoundingly fervent cadre of architects across the country who are involved, incentivized, and knowledgeable,” Brown said. “Along with additional staff that have been assigned advocating for green code, our intent is to ramp up our [efforts] on this issue --not just level out and leave it to others.”

“I think what ICC wants from AIA is a commitment to advocate on behalf of this code as much as the ICC,” Brown said. “At the end of the day I want to say, ‘Look, we’re in this together. Tell us what you need us to do and I’ll take that message back to the home front.’”

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