Call me old-fashioned. I have always understood that the sole purpose of any model building code is to provide a regulatory framework for public safety. In fact, the website for the folks behind the IBC family of codes is www.iccsafe.org. As discussed on this Listserv a few years ago, building codes have never addressed aesthetics, economics, serviceability, and so forth. Public safety has always been their sole focus.
Now, that all appears to be changing. On June 29, ICC announced that it is teaming with AIA and ASTM to develop the "International Green Construction Code" (IGCC) focused on new and existing commercial buildings. In a press release on that date, Code Council Chief Executive Officer Richard P. Weiland stated "We believe the time has come for us to develop a code that will stand as a useful and credible regulatory framework for creating a greener commercial building stock." Really, I am not making this stuff up:
Now, I have no problem with promoting sustainable principles as long as they are based on innovation, best-practices, and proven science. My wife and I have recycled everything imaginable for the better part of three decades. We recently replaced all three of our big residential HVAC systems with new equipment that is so efficient that President Obama is funding part of our expenditures with your tax dollars. [Note: This is a federal gift, it did not influence our purchase decision.] With an incentive from the State of Texas, I also recently replaced a few dozen perfectly good incandescent light bulbs with dimmer, goofy-looking compact florescent bulbs. Some of the engineers on my staff are actively pursuing LEED accreditation. I applaud that, as we will better be able to serve our clients who voluntarily seek to have their projects LEED-certified. The key word, of course, is VOLUNTARILY.
I have two problems with ICC pursuing the IGCC. First, if they are truly compelled to venture beyond safety, I would much prefer that they focus on serviceability. Issues like floor vibration, for example, remain fuzzy areas of structural engineering practice that attract unnecessary liability. Second, as one who believes that climate science is mostly nonsense, I oppose any effort that will lead to sustainability regulations being embedded into the building codes. To the extent that sustainability principles have merit, public pressure and economic considerations will promote their implementation much more effectively than regulation ever could. Yes, I still believe in old-fashioned capitalism.
Stan R. Caldwell, P.E., SECB
Proud to be in Texas
The Carbon Capital of North America