The Torch - April 2011

Past Issues

February 2011

 


The Torch Offical Publication of Green Builder Coalition

Activities

code change proposal submitted for igcc

Undeterred by the ICC Board's reversal of the initial public hearing committee's decision to keep residential in the IGCC, the Green Builder® Coalition submitted a code change proposal that would bring residential structures back under the IGCC's purview.

The proposal, which is classified as GG2-11 and can be viewed in its entirety starting on page 661 of the public document, is a 9-part code change. Portions of the proposal will be heard by the IGCC General Committee, while others will be considered by the IGCC-Energy and Water Committee.

Whereas in its original form residential was tied to ICC-700, this proposal simply allows a jurisdiction to utilize any approved green building program or rating system. This will allow for easier adoption while raising the floor in residential construction. It also allows the industry to continue using any and all existing voluntary programs, while further solidifying the programs' leadership role in raising the bar for the housing industry.

For more on this topic, please visit our Advocacy department and scroll down to "Action Alerts".

Raleigh, NC capital building

Coalition leadership visits north carolina

At the request of one of our members, co-founders Ron Jones and Mike Collignon paid a visit to the Triangle Area of North Carolina. For years, one of our members has been diligent in his pursuit of higher energy efficiency levels in housing. The Green Builder® Coalition, with our member's assistance, was able to spend 45 minutes with the Governor's senior staff member. The topic of discussion centered around the Governor's desire to enact the 2012 energy conservation code and the NC HBA's resistance of such a progressive action.

It appears that the latest code will be passed, but not after the NCHBA receives what amounts to a waiver on other aspects of construction, such as life safety measures and 3rd party inspections. In total, $2,600 is the likely amount homebuilders will be able to "offset" in order to meet the higher energy requirements. If the Governor and the NCHBA agree to meet in the middle, the code will be enforced starting Jan. 1, 2012.

While some parties are not happy with the implication that life safety has to be exchanged for energy performance, given the current political climate in NC, this compromise is a step in the right direction. As time goes on, there is hope that the various "offsets" can be phased out once the increased energy efficiency costs are proven to be nominal and a net positive for the building owner.

Impact Series featured cisneros, cousteau; kawasaki next

Henry Cisneros, former HUD Secretary

 The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions

The Impact Series continued in March with an interview featuring Henry Cisneros. A former HUD secretary who now focuses his time on sustainable cities, Cisneros shared his thoughts on sustainable living and urban development.

Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of legendary ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau and president of Ocean Futures Society, explored the state of our precious water resource while providing personal anecdotes and insights. He also addressed the long-term effects of the nuclear meltdown in Japan and the BP oil spill.

In case you missed either webinar, they are archived here.

The next scheduled edition of the Series will take place on Tuesday, May 10 at 12pm CT. Guy Kawasaki will explain how to influence what people will do while maintaining the highest standards of ethics. To register for this webinar, please click here.

As I Am...

Mark Sapiro Green Building Professionalmark sapiro

Each issue, we’ll sit down with a green building professional to gain a personal insight into their motivations, inspirations and experiences. This issue, we feature Mark Sapiro.

The Torch:  What motivated you to enter the sustainability industry?

Mark Sapiro:  I want to be an “ambassador” to help affect change. As builders, we realize that the habits of the past (waste, consumption, and a general disregard for the natural environment) must change. We all must feel a sense of responsibility to the environment and contribute to make a difference.

But just as important as what motivated me to enter the field is what is essential for me to remain in the sustainability field. Staying ahead and on top of current market trends, new products, systems, certifications and evaluations is a must for a niche builder. It’s what defines us and sets us apart. Constantly receiving education on what is new and available in the market and the world of sustainability allows us to be knowledgeable experts, which is vital as the responsible manager of our clients’ projects. It also allows us to educate our clients on best practices to be used throughout the construction process and in their finished home. We empower them to be responsible homeowners.

TT:  Describe your first green project. Did you encounter any hurdles on that first project? If so, how did you overcome them?

MS:  I think I attended my first EEBA conference about eight years ago. I’ve been fascinated with building science, green building and healthy home principals for quite some time. The challenge I ran up against was integrating those principals into the culture of an established organization and industry.

We have broken ground on our first LEED certified home and very excited to be working with Green Builder Media/Magazine on the VISION House – Los Angeles (completion in 2012). These projects are our first Green homes and are in the early phases of development and construction.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to integrate green building principals into the entire organization as well as to establish the foundation of work moving forward to a more sustainable, energy efficient and healthy built environment.

TT:  What building product or technique do you think will be the next “game changer”?

MS:  Products and techniques are changing every day. It’s remarkable to watch and be a part of.

I really believe there is no one building product or technique that is a “game changer”. A collaboration coming from every facet of this industry will produce ten fold the results of any one product or technique. I am seeing the power of many manufacturers and installers becoming educated and wanting to make a difference; from windows, insulation, roofing, vapor barriers, efficiency of appliances, technology, and connectivity to almost every aspect of the home. The “game changer” comes from committing to reduce our waste, reduce our consumption, implement building science principles, build timeless and long lasting products and constantly strive to educate ourselves, our clients and our associates.

TT:  Who inspires you the most?

MS:  Individuals that have made the dramatic change to refuse the norm as the standard. There have been many strong influences in my life, so it’s hard to single out one person at the top. One person that has created a “game changer” company is Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia.

TT:  If you had it to do over again, what profession would you choose?

MS:  I have always loved the building business. It suits my strengths. It is not repetitive. Every project presents new challenges and an opportunity for growth. The standards are constantly evolving.  The inspiration for design, creativity, technology and resources… the possibilities are endless. It is a field that anyone and everyone can relate to.

When a family moves and settles into a home that I have helped to create, there is a great sense of accomplishment. I can’t think of any industry that I would rather be in.

TT:  What do you enjoy the most when you’re not at work?

MS:  First and foremost, I enjoy spending time with my wife of 29 years and my children; Aaron (24) and Nicole (22), as well as my extended family and friends. Beyond that, I spend time skiing, hiking, biking, and working out.

TT:  What’s the most important piece of advice you’d like to pass along to others?

MS: 
•    It’s time to start asking questions!
•    Don’t keep your head down; look up and ahead.  
•    Learn everyday.
•    Lead change in a positive way.
•    Inspiration can come from almost anywhere.
•    Imagine the possibilities.

Benefit SpotlightGreen Builder® Magazine

Green Builder® Magazine is the authoritative source for sustainable residential building. Recently redesigned, each issue has been purposefully transformed into a themed guide, enabling readers to build a useful reference library. The magazine focuses not just on the design and construction of environmentally appropriate, cost-effective buildings, but also on the larger topic of sustainable living.

Voices

Train of Thought - The Case for ResidentialTrain of Thought

Sharpen your pencils and get out your scorecard, because you’re going to need one for this story. (Now that it’s baseball season, I can happily use that analogy.)

When the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) was in draft form, the residential component of the code referenced ICC-700. This is a green building standard developed jointly by the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This document became the foundation on which NAHB built their national green building program, the National Green Building Standard (NGBS). While somewhat restrictive, since it neglected to take into consideration other valid programs like LEED-H, Earthcraft, PassivHaus, Energy Star, etc., it made sense for ICC to want to include one of their own documents in the new “green” code. One might also surmise that NAHB would be pleased to see “their” standard included in such an influential new code.

However, the opposite happened. When the 1st round of public comments was submitted and testimony was given in Chicago in August 2010, NAHB, along with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Window and Door Manufacturers Association and others, claimed that ICC-700, the residential component within the IgCC, did not need to be in the new code. There were plenty of voluntary programs and rating systems that, including NGBS, allowed builders to effectively build green. A mandate was certainly not necessary, and they pointed to the success of these various programs and rating systems.

The Department of Energy, the Green Builder® Coalition and one other group (whose name I can’t recall) opposed the proposal to strip ICC-700 out of the IgCC. We felt it was inconceivable that the International Green Construction Code completely ignore residential structures. According to the US Energy Information Administration, residential buildings consume 3.3% more energy than commercial buildings.[1] If a code is looking to make an impact, why would it turn a blind eye to the larger culprit of energy use?

After the public hearing committee heard testimony from both sides, they debated and decided overwhelmingly to leave residential (via ICC-700) in the IGCC. (In retrospect, this was merely a precursor of things to come in Charlotte in October 2010 when the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and its increased energy performance levels were approved.) The preliminary decision was not good news for NAHB and their allies, so they employed their “any means necessary” approach by lobbying the ICC Board to have ICC-700 (residential) removed. Completely within their purview, the ICC Board listened to NAHB and their allies and removed residential.

When you stop and think about it, the entire series of events is absurd. NAHB was so blinded by their allergy to mandates that they fought to remove a standard that they themselves co-developed. They would have had semi-control over the residential green requirements of the IgCC. Instead, they flushed that opportunity away.

So, what looked like a blow to our efforts has instead turned into a golden opportunity. When the 2nd round of public comments was submitted, we introduced a code change proposal to re-introduce residential to the IgCC… in its purest form. Affiliated with no program, we ask that the IgCC simply require residential structures be built to one of the many worthy voluntary programs or rating systems in existence. To make adoption easier, our proposal goes on to state that a jurisdiction can utilize any and all “approved” programs or rating systems. (In code language, “approved” means something that the local building inspector or code official is familiar and comfortable with.)

We agree with NAHB, USGBC and others that worthy and valid green building programs and rating systems exist. A lot of time and effort has been put into the development of these market tools, and that shouldn’t go to waste. Rather, let’s funnel the industry towards those programs and rating systems as much as possible. And before anyone thinks that the market is taking that initiative on their own, time to sharpen those pencils and look at the numbers.

LEED-H certified their first residential project on May 12, 2006, or roughly 5 years ago. They just surpassed the 10,000th unit to be LEED-H certified. (A more up-to-date figure is 11,254, according to USGBC’s data from 4/28/2011.[2]) Almost 2 years later, NAHB and the ICC unveiled NGBS. At the time of this writing, their online counter (which can be viewed here) was up to 4,159[*]. While both totals are honorable achievements, let’s hold the balloon-and-confetti party for a minute.

Below are the annual housing starts (combined single-family and multifamily) from 2006-2010[3]:

2006 – 1,201,000[†]
2007 – 1,355,000
2008 – 906,000
2009 – 554,000
2010 – 587,000
Total – 4,603,000

Now, the LEED-H total is up to 11,254 by now. Let’s assume that zero projects secured dual-certification (and would otherwise be double-counted), even though some projects have achieved both designations. For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that NGBS’s total doesn’t include lots. Finally, we’ll ignore that any and all housing starts in 2011 aren’t counted in the overall total above, yet we are including 2011 green-rated homes in our equation.

In this semi-scientific analysis, we can estimate that 15,413 “unique” projects have achieved a sanctioned level of green from one of 2 major industry organizations since May 2006. That’s a paltry 0.3% of all new housing starts over that 5-year period. Put another way, for every 1,000 housing units, 3 were certified green. Three!!!

Does this represent progress? Is this why we should exclude residential structures from the IgCC? Does anyone expect me to buy that rationale? Are you serious?

Before anyone thinks I’m being too harsh, let’s include Energy Star homes in this analysis. They started labeling homes in 1995, and they have surpassed the 1 million mark. Kudos to them! We can now add 1 million to our previous total of 15,413. However, we’ve got to go back and determine the total housing starts since 1995. For brevity’s sake, we’ll skip the year-by-year totals and fast forward to the end. The total is approximately 23,513,000 starts.[4] This “boosts” the percentage up 4 points, to 4.3%. Still want to unleash balloons and pop champagne? Yeah, me neither.

This isn’t meant to be a knock on any of the aforementioned programs or rating systems. Instead, I point this out to show that in 15+ years, the market has responded to the tune of… 4.3%. While that might be an enjoyable rate of return on a financial investment these days, I wouldn’t qualify that as any sort of success rate. If that decimal point wasn’t there, I could get excited. But the number is what it is, and there’s no going back and changing it. We can only move forward, and the IgCC gives us the vehicle to navigate down that road.

Based solely off public comments submitted to ICC for Round 2 of the IgCC development process, it appears USGBC may have had a change of heart. They have also proposed that residential be reinstated to the IgCC. The Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB) has done the same. Hopefully, the USGBC, CLARB and others will join the Green Builder® Coalition in our efforts to improve the level of sustainability for all structures, not just a small percentage of them.

Mike Collignon



[*] That number includes lots, so it’s not a true indicator of total structures.

[†] Starts averaged 150,000 monthly, so 600,000 were subtracted to account for the 4 months prior to LEED-H’s existence.