The 2012 International Green Construction Code was published in March of this year. This model code is now available for adoption by state and local governmental bodies that rule over construction. So far over a dozen of these entities have adopted the 2012 IgCC in whole on a voluntary basis or in part on a mandatory basis. Arguably most significant of these adoptions is the State of Florida. Florida has adopted the IgCC as an option for the retrofitting and new construction of all state-owned facilities. Previously, Florida law did not recognize any kind of green construction code, only voluntary rating systems (LEED). The legislation specifically allows the IgCC to be used by the Department of Management Services and encourages state agencies to adopt the IgCC as a model green building code that will apply to all buildings financed by the state, including county, municipal, school districts, water management districts, state universities, community colleges and state court buildings. The legislation noted that Florida lawmakers expect the IgCC to serve as a model for private sector adoption of sustainable building measures.
Shortly after the IgCC’s first public version was made available I wrote in this blog of the negative impact this code would have on permanent modular construction. I still firmly believe the prohibitive costs applied to relatively small commercial buildings (less than 15,000 square feet) will deter buying decisions. Virtually all modular buildings as well as most prefab buildings cater to small businesses where the price point is normally the largest single factor in the buying decision. It is feared that most small business owners when faced with expansion needs will make do with existing structures rather than incur a steeply inflated cost for new construction brought on by the IgCC. The Modular Building Institute (MBI) has quoted a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory which cited the average-sized non-residential building in the United States is 14,500 square feet. Across all categories of buildings in the study, no average was smaller than 5,500 square feet. Because of this, MBI lobbied twice during public hearings on the new code to seek an exemption for buildings below 5,000 square feet. In both instances the motion was not approved. Dru Meadows with the Green Team, Inc. provided cost studies submitted with the public comment showing the disproportionate cost impact to smaller buildings.
|Building Size||IgCC sq ft Cost Impact||% Increase|
Ms Meadows goes on to say, “While some of the costs are basically a direct ratio… less material, less expense… other costs will have a baseline or fixed fee no matter the size of the building. So, smaller buildings will pay proportionately more. That is not a sustainable approach. It lacks both social and economic equity. Similarly, the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) would be expected to bear a proportionately greater burden for the smaller buildings and arguably, that is not the most efficient application of limited governmental resources.”
This is pretty simple. New commercial buildings that are less than 15,000 square feet are the commercial modular industry’s sweet spot. These buildings account for over 85% of what we do! Even though this code has passed, all is not lost. Individuals can still lobby their state legislators for restraints in the adoption of the IgCC. The 5,000 square feet implementation threshold is a great start. I encourage everyone with ties to the commercial modular industry to stay attuned to the activities of their respective state legislators when in session and coordinate through the MBI to lobby for such restraints, should the issue make the docket. As we have stated before, we support the intent of the IgCC. Energy conservation, effective use of recycled and renewable materials, and the efficient use of natural resources are all very important. That being said, wholesale adoption of the 2012 IgCC simply “because it’s the right thing to do” without determining its affects on building owners, small business, the A&E community, small contractors, state and local governments could lead to disaster in a slowly recovering construction sector.
Linc Moss is President of Ramtech Building Systems, Inc. He has been in the modular construction industry for 36 years, has twice been President of the Modular Building Institute, and has represented the commercial modular building industry before Congress.