The New IGCC, International Green Construction Code - Partnerships and Implications


Dec 12, 2018
International Green Construction Code

The 2018 International Green Construction Code, or IGCC is developed jointly by International Code Council (ICC), U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), The American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). 

The IgCC is a part of the Code Council’s comprehensive set of model codes – including the International Building Code, International Existing Building Code, International Energy Conservation Code, International Mechanical Code, International Plumbing Code and International Fire Code – and has been adopted by many jurisdictions across the globe.  Model codes provide a way for governments to streamline the development and adoption of building design and compliance processes to construct safe, sustainable and affordable structures.  These templates also lessen confusion by establishing uniformity between jurisdictions.  

The 2018 IGCC combines or unifies ASHRAE's Standard 189.1 with the existing IGCC, a significant shift that will help further standardize and simply construction codes for government entities and the building industry.  Additionally, the code is more aligned with USGBC's LEED green building certification, which will likely facilitate IGCC adoption and LEED credential achievement for a win-win that also benefits the environment.   

“Building safety codes help our communities prepare for the future,” said Dominic Sims, CEO, International Code Council. “Taking into account the latest technologies and cost-effective strategies for dealing with resource scarcity, the IgCC helps cities, states and countries build stronger, smarter, sustainably and more resiliently.” 

Below are some of the major changes in the 2018 IGCC:

  1. Thoug not yet a chapter, “Resilience is now added to the scope as a discrete desire or goal for the code,” said Wes Sullens, director of codes technical development at USGBC, “that hopefully allow for better use of buildings in case of interruption.” He added, “We spent a lot of time on the committee talking about what does that mean to be a resilient space.” 
  2. The 2018 IGCC now has two numbering systems, as this coding system has completely integrated ASHRAE 189.1 Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. The ASHRAE would still stand on its own in many international locations, but for North America, it is going to be the same as IGCC.
  3. A requirement has been added for green vehicle preferred parking or electric vehicle charging station
  4. Real-time reporting of energy usage of the whole building is required

According to Dr. Andrew Persily of the National Insitutute of Standards technology (NIST) and formerly of ASHRAE, “Most of the changes are incremental.  Ideally, now that there is one document instead of two, it will reduce confusion and increase adoption.”

As mentioned, this version of IGCC more closely aligns with the LEED green building certification. This is due to the existence of many other sustainability requirements, some of which have already been mandated by certain jurisdictions. Being able to closely resemble one of those required codes, LEED, is believed to have increased adoption rate of IGCC.

Image Source: USGBC

The chart above demonstrates USGBC’s vision of the future of building codes, that they should become the foundation of LEED. In fact, IGCC, after the change, is serving as somewhat a prerequisite for LEED verification. Being compliant with IGCC can directly contribute to gaining 20 credits in the LEED rating system. 

One obvious beneficiary of this coalition of several well-known green organizations and standards is ASHRAE. For ASHRAE, “189 is basically at the center of the green-standard world.” However, the spokesperson also recognizes that “It becomes a partnership. Now we’re not the sole control like we have been in the past—but that’s OK. These are the recognized leaders in this world, and the fact that we’re all coming together is very exciting.”

A greater goal of this coalition is to enhance the number of jurisdictions that mandate green building related codes by making the adoption and selection process easier. Owens, the SVP of USGBC, expresses the need for a hammer (regulation). “Progressive jurisdictions across the United States were rummaging through their toolbox for a hammer (a regulation) and only found a screwdriver (a rating system),” he writes in a blog post explaining the partnership ( “You can hammer in nails with a screwdriver…but it’s hugely inefficient and, when you have a bunch of nails to drive, frustrating as hell.”



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