Green is in the spotlight. And if you are in the business of construction, you should make it your business.
Thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) homeowners now have tax credits at their disposal to make their residences more energy efficient. In addition, new directives for the design and construction of greener buildings combine to create significant opportunities and challenges for the construction industry.
But knowing where to start – from understanding and complying with new green building codes, to positioning your construction company as a certified “green builder” – will require some “time and materials” research and investment.
The Changing Landscape of Green Construction
At the state and local level alone, there has been an unprecedented increase in green-building leadership with ever-evolving green building codes and policies. Many of these new measures require the adoption of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in the development of new government buildings, while others offer commercial builders tax incentives and expedited permits to enforce green building policies.
Below is a brief overview of the most recent developments in green building codes that impact the construction industry in the light of government-mandated green building standards – as well as resources to help you build these practices into your construction business.
1. New National Green Building Standard
The National Green Building Standard, known as ICC-700, was approved in January 2009 as an American National Standard. The standard allows builders, designers and communities to choose the levels of high-performance green buildings that best suit their needs and provides guidance for safe and sustainable building practices for residential construction, including both new and renovated single-family to high-rise residential buildings.
This is the first and only green standard that is consistent and coordinated with the Code Council’s family of I-Codes and standards.
The Council sees ICC-700 as a benchmark for green building in the residential market, serving as a new and needed starting point for comprehensive approaches to green residential construction. Read more about ICC-700.
As a builder or retrofitter, you can purchase a booklet about helping homeowners achieve compliance with the ICC 700-2008 National Green Building Standard (NGBS) here.
2. Recovery Act and the Construction Industry
In addition to the headway that states are making with green policies, ARRA includes $3.1 billion in additional funding for State Energy Programs. It includes the following mandates that impact the construction industry:
- New State-Level Building Energy Codes – State and local governments are required to implement a building energy code for residential construction that meets or exceeds the 2009 IECC energy code, and for commercial construction meets or exceeds the 2007 ASHRAE 90.1 code. To find out what green building codes are being implemented in your state you should refer to your individual state’s government Web site. Reed Construction also maintains a useful Building Code Reference Library that provides detailed information on building codes for all 50 states, major cities, and some counties.
- Homeowner Energy Efficiency Tax Credits – Perhaps the most widely covered green initiative that residential construction companies can take advantage of is the much touted tax credit for homeowner energy efficiency improvements. This includes new windows, heating and cooling system upgrades, and improved insulation. To qualify for the 30% tax credit in tax years 2009 and 2010 the homeowner must meet the requirements of the 2009 IECC code.