For the codes to be practical, they have to remain in step with conventional building practices and technology, whereas green standards are voluntary, and that’s why they can be out ahead. They give us a venue to test new technology, commercialize it, and spread evolving social the values. “Specification in required minimum codes must remain practical and widely accepted, but for the more challenging stretch-goals in performance of the green standards, we expect the entrepreneurial forces of a free market to respond in innovative ways. The green standards accelerate us because they provide a means to differentiate product and services. For example, there’s significant activity in the chemical industry to make agricultural-based feedstock components for plastics, paints, finishes, and adhesives. Do we need codes to mandate a transition away from petrochemicals? Well we’re doing it right now, well ahead of codes that may or may not come. Leadership comes from society and industry, too. Producers that create a new product using greener alternatives have a financial stake in moving the green dialogue forward.” In the next few weeks, the ANSI National Green Building Standard Technical Consensus Committee will complete the balloting process to approve document changes to the latest draft of the 2012 update of the current NGBS 2008 document. The changes will still require several more rounds of public comments and approval by the ANSI Board of Standards Review before it’s ready for release, probably in Las Vegas at the 2013 International Builder’s Show.

To give us a sense of how voluntary standards precede code, Kenney prepared the following table:

 

NGBS 2008
% Reduction in Energy – IECC 2006 basis

NGBS 2012 % Reduction in Energy – IECC 2009 basis

Bronze

15

15

Silver

30

30

Gold

50

40

Emerald

60

50

In a nutshell, if I built a house today and certified it at the proposed 2008 NGBS Silver level, I would be 30% ahead of the 2006 IECC, and would be meeting the 2030 Challenge targets. For the proposed update, the 2012 NGBS Bronze level is 15% more stringent than the 2008 version and therefore the Bronze meets the 2030 Challenge target. At the Gold and Emerald levels, I would be building a house with low enough energy consumption that could justify renewable energy equipment and move toward net-zero energy and carbon neutral goals. Reluctant to prognosticate, Kenney nevertheless points back to the first codes and standards, which set only minimum levels of public health and fire safety, and says, “We’ve gone well beyond this and I would expect the trend to continue indefinitely as long as our technical expertise and social expectations continue to increase. To know the future, just look at the next levels of performance on the NGBS and I think you’ll find that the higher levels proposed already align with the vision for 2020.”