Facility managers today have much more on their plates than the routine duties necessary to keep offices, school buildings or warehouses running. Whether in the initial stages of planning and building another structure, or repairing an existing one, it’s essential that the right materials for the job are used. This means balancing cost with the practical requirements of the space in every case. But in many places, it also means adhering to local, state and federal environmental regulations. This means everything from the roof to the foundation may need to be carefully designed to meet these government-mandated specifications.
Fortunately for facility managers, environmentally friendly roofing and other building materials present some of the best choices, in terms of cost, utility and maintenance. Anyone involved in commercial construction or renovation should know the basics of environmental certification and local regulations. Getting familiar with these codes ends up saving time and money in the long run.
Basic building standards
In the U.S., any local or state regulatory body may adopt their own specific environmental building codes. At minimum, however, these codes must be in compliance with one of a few international building standards, which is overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the federal level.
International Green Construction Code
This is the primary “model code” authorized by the EPA and represents the baseline that most construction projects must follow in the U.S. The IGCC covers new construction as well as additions and alterations on existing structures. By serving as a model code from which municipal bodies can draw, the IGCC seeks to establish standards for sustainability, energy and water efficiency, emissions and maintenance.
ASH is another model code that may be used in jurisdictions that have adopted an IGCC-based code. ASH has similar objectives as IGCC, but also provides two compliance path options. The simpler option, the “Prescriptive Path,” involves fewer choices and calculations. The “Performance Path” is a more rigorous designation, but does allow for more flexibility in projects that adhere to it.
Other common certifications
There are some other types of building certification which are designed as voluntary rather than mandatory, and thus might only be applicable in more specific cases.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
LEED is among the most popular sustainable design codes worldwide. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification is based on a points system. Generally, a project earns more points depending on the number of efficient and sustainable elements implemented. Obtaining LEED certification can be expensive at first, but these costs end up paying for themselves in the form of reduced energy use, easier maintenance and less risk of health issues for occupants.
The EPA uses its own brand, Energy Star, to raise awareness and promote the adoption of efficient and sustainable design. Energy Star-certified products are available for the commercial construction industry as well as name-brand consumer products. The easily recognized logo simplifies the process of choosing sustainable building materials for facility managers, contractors and anyone else involved.
Some states, including California, mandate specific building requirements for newly built homes and commercial structures. The State of California Energy Commission’s Cool Roof mandate is among the most notable examples of building codes focused on environmental policies.
California’s Cool Roof rule requires builders install roofing material that meets strict guidelines for energy use. Specifically, a new or rebuilt roof must meet minimum requirements pertaining to its solar reflectance and thermal emittance.
- Solar reflectance is the ability of the roof to reflect energy from the Sun, as well as how much of that energy is ultimately absorbed and transferred into the building.
- Thermal emittance describes the amount of energy the roof can absorb and release in the form of heat.
A high degree of solar reflectance and thermal emittance means a Cool Roof can help keep a building energy efficient. Cool Roofs reduce expenses related to climate control and ultimately last longer than standard roofs, making them a wise investment even for older buildings.
Understanding the details of environmental building codes can be tricky. Contact a building professional at MB Technology to learn more about how to choose the right materials for your project’s needs.