Green Code Mandatory on April 1 for All Building in Baltimore

By Jacqueline Lusk and Stuart Kaplow

Baltimore, MD – Baltimore City adopted the International Green Construction Code 2012 as an overlay to the City’s building, fire and related codes effective April 1, 2015. And despite that the IgCC becomes mandatory on April Fools’ Day, we are not playing a practical joke when we tell you that the effective date has “shifted.”

Baltimore was among the first jurisdictions, in 2007, to mandate that all “newly constructed, extensively modified non-residential buildings achieve a Silver rating in the appropriate LEED rating system or satisfy the Baltimore City Green Building Standard” (a LEED-like local enactment). The mandatory law had some efficacy with new construction but almost no market impact on renovations as building owners strove to avoid the enactment.

Council Bill 14-0413 repeals that existing law and commencing April 1, 2015, expands its scope and breadth with a new Baltimore Green Construction Code to apply to all new construction and “all repairs, additions, or alterations to a structure and all changes of occupancy” with very few exceptions. (Those exceptions being one or two family dwellings, etc.).

Significantly, the new Green Code does not apply to: structures that achieve a LEED Silver rating; residential and mixed use buildings of five stories or more that comply with the ICC 700 at the Silver performance level for energy and Bronze level for other categories; and, to structures that comply with ASHRAE standard 189.1. The new enactment allows the Code official to accept third party certification of compliance with these alternative compliance paths; and the authors’ businesses will provide those certifications.

The Code official has announced a shifting of the ‘hard’ April 1 effective date until the effective date of the triennial code revision (of the building, plumbing, energy and other construction codes) which will likely be in first week of July, 2015. Until that not yet determined date, projects may utilize the new Green Code, but significantly, the Code official will accept new registration for the Baltimore City Green Building Standard, meaning projects registered before the effective date will be permitted to proceed under the repealed Standard.

The urgency in sunsetting the Baltimore City Green Building Standard was in large measure because it utilizes many of the LEED 2009 metrics, but when USGBC again delayed LEED v4 and announced projects will be able to register for LEED 2008 through October 31, 2016, the Standard’s functionality was extended through that date.

The modified effective date is also influenced by the fact that the adoption of the updated Baltimore City Zoning Ordinance has slowed, and many of the new green features of the not yet adopted zoning code are necessary to make the new Green Code efficacious.

This delay in effective date is a big deal. Despite that less than a hundred projects in total have registered under the sunsetting of the Baltimore City Green Building Standard, many of those were multi-family residential buildings (which will see major changes in compliance requires under the new Code).

And the City Standard may see many more applicants after April 1 because this new Green Code applies to all repairs and renovations (not subject to the prior law), which will result is a sea-change in terms of increased number of buildings that must be green.

Policy making public officials have described that when the triennial code revisions are adopted there will also be changes to the new Green Code. To address how multi-family residential construction is burdened under the new Green Code, projects that comply with the Enterprise Green Communities standard will be added to the list of those exempt from IgCC compliance. There will also be significant changes to the energy requirements in the IgCC clarifying compliance.

Of note, there is an exemption process where the Code official may, in unusual circumstances and upon a showing of good cause, grant an exemption from any specific requirement of the Green Code. This not only authorizes the shifting effective date, but also will be key in making the new Green Code workable. The IgCC as adopted in Baltimore is not a base code, but rather sets a higher bar than even LEED Silver:compliance with the 32 pages of edits made to the form IgCC make this enactment very green. While some of the edits to the form code appear innocuous , like requiring “at least 50% of the total building materials used” in a building of 25,000 square feet or greater, must be recycled, recyclable, bio- based or indigenous (within 500 miles), others are not. In a first for any American city, buildings subject to the new law are now mandated to have renewable energy systems.

The enactment corrects some of the industry bias in the form IgCC when, in pursuit of heat island effect mitigation, Baltimore permits the use of “porous asphalt pavement” in addition to pervious concrete. The form code all but bans asphalt pavement in favor of concrete products (i.e., when the IgCC 2012 mandates heat island mitigation for not less than 50% of site hardscape with material as having a solar reflectance value of not less than 0.30 [think light colored concrete and not dark colored asphalt]).

As progressive as this bill is, Baltimore is one of a very limited number of jurisdictions mandating new construction and renovation of both private and public buildings must be green. After the 2014 mid- term elections, many of today’s newly elected conservatives believe that a voluntary, non-mandatory approach to environmental protection is the best hope for stewardship of our planet. It is that same belief that has led to the broad brand and wide market share acceptance of LEED as a voluntary green building rating system. But Baltimore has had a mandate on the books since 2007, so, while there are not 50 shades of green—with alternative compliance paths for achieving green building—this new Green Code is being viewed favorably.

It is important that those contemplating construction or renovation in Baltimore be aware that the state of Maryland adopted a very different version of the IgCC for use on Maryland capital budget funded projects.

And it should be lost on no one that all of this involves the IgCC 2012 and not the 2015 version. The 2015 IgCC was approved in November and will be published in May 2015, but will not be eligible for use in Maryland until approved by state and local government officials.

With only a matter of days until the April Fools’ Day, we are working with property owners and builders to promptly evaluate the impact of the several alternatives for green building now required of nearly all construction and renovation in Baltimore.

Jacqueline Lusk is a sustainability consultant at Lorax Partnerships and can be reached at jackie@loraxllc.com. Stuart Kaplow is a sustainability and green building attorney and can be reached at skaplow@stuartkaplow.com.

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