Green Design Standards in the Construction Industry

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Green Design Standards in the Construction Industry

sustainable building construction

When thinking about designing a green building, there are written codes and standards that architects and engineers can use to achieve their desired goals.  The following standards set the guidelines that are commonly used by designers and contractors for the development of environmentally-friendly buildings.

International Green Construction Code (IGCC)

The IGCC is a reference guide that serves as a benchmark for building minimum green requirements.  It includes sustainability measures for a complete construction project and its building site.  The IGCC covers design, construction and building occupancy and helps buildings to become more energy efficient, reduce waste, and improve occupant health and safety. The LEED rating system uses several of the guidelines that are found in the IGCC for their standards.

International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)

The IECC was written as a reference guide for building performance modelers and engineers with strategies that cover energy cost savings, reduced energy usage, conservation of natural resources and the impact of burning fossil fuels on the environment. It includes measures to improve the thermal efficiency of windows, walls, roofs, skylights, HVAC systems and electrical systems for residential and commercial buildings.

This code uses already established standards from ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers) for several of their envelope design and mechanical equipment efficiencies baselines.

ASHRAE Energy Code 90.1

The ASHRAE Energy Standard is widely used and internationally accepted by engineers and architects as a starting point for mechanical equipment selection, lighting energy density, electrical power requirements, wall and roof insulation values, hot water systems and glass energy performance.

The LEED rating system uses ASHRAE 90.1 to establish the baseline for what a building’s energy consumption should be.  All buildings seeking LEED certification will be compared to an energy model that is built using this standard that shows how to quantify a building’s energy use.

ASHRAE Standard 62.1

ASHRAE 62.1 was written to help improve the indoor air quality inside a building.  It shows the designer minimum ventilation and exhaust air requirements depending on a room’s occupancy type and number of people.  For example, a room that is used as a bar/ restaurant will require a greater amount of ventilation air than a typical office space of the same size.

Ventilation air is defined as the amount of outdoor fresh air that is filtered, conditioned and injected into a building.  If a building does not have an adequate amount of ventilation air, people are likely to get sick, headaches and tired from a lack of oxygen and from breathing the same stale, recirculated air all day.  Having inadequate ventilation will also decrease occupant productivity inside the building.

ASHRAE Standard 55.1

ASHRAE 55.1 is responsible for establishing standards that make a building comfortable for its occupants.  They set the acceptable temperature and humidity levels that are required for human comfort.  When building occupants are comfortable, they are productive.  The design temperature for a comfortable room is usually around 75°F and 50% relative humidity, but the standard sets a range that can vary from 67°F to 83°F, depending on the relative humidity levels.

That was a quick review of the most used standards in the design and construction of green buildings.  If you would want to get involved in the industry, these standards have more than enough information to get you started.


Mauro Small, LEED AP, is a Professional Engineer who writes for Go Green Academy, an information website on topics related to energy efficiency, climate change and sustainability. Photo via flickr

Greener Ideal is an independent environmental news and lifestyle publication that has been curating content since 2008 to further the green movement. The views expressed by contributing authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.