Evaluation of "Green" Products

Julie Ruth
June 1, 2008
COLUMN : Code Arena

In a recent cartoon, a mother first offered her daughter a T-shirt made out of recycled cotton, then her son sandals soled with recycled tire treads. The punch line was one sibling observing to the other that perhaps they should have been more specific when they told their mom they wanted to wear something green for St. Patrick's Day.

These days it seems that everyone is jumping on the "green" bandwagon. The Detroit automakers are offering "green" SUVs. A bleach manufacturer is now advertising its "green" household cleaner. Even cosmetic counters display products meant to enhance a women's appearance while being environmentally sensitive. What could be a better combination than that?

The real question in all of this, of course, is what exactly is "green." How does one determine if a product is "green," or, more specifically, if your product is "green" or more "green" than your competitors'?

Apparently there are a number of agencies who would be glad to evaluate your product for you and, for a fee, tell you if it is "green". These agencies include, among others, Consumer Products Report.

The International Code Council Evaluation Services has announced it will begin offering evaluation of green building products through its International Accreditation Service. During a discussion on this topic at an April 1, 2008 meeting of the ICC Industry Advisory Council in Washington, D.C., the question was asked, "What will be the basis for their criteria?" The response was that ICC ES can evaluate products for compliance to any code or standard. Information on the new program, including a forum held in April 2008 on the topic, is available at www.iasonline.org/more/sustainable.html.

ICC has also announced it will begin offering inspectors the opportunity to be certified as a "green" inspector. Through the certification program, code officials will be offered an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to understand the application of green building technology and assess adherence with green building programs while also providing assurances that green and sustainable buildings are safe. The committee responsible for the development of the certification exam has been newly formed. No apparent target date has been announced for the introduction of this program.

In an effort to improve the code compliance component of new building construction, ICC is developing a software program called Smartcodes. The intent is to provide the user with automated code compliance checking of the design and construction of a new building.

The whole concept of Smartcodes depends upon the reduction of the building design to a collection of data known as the building information model (BIM). When the building design has been reduced to an accurate BIM, the Smartcodes software will then be able to evaluate each bit of data for code compliance. The members of the ICC IAC assembled for the April 1 meeting were advised that each trade association that has criteria (standards or not) for products referenced in the International Codes should determine just how that criteria would be represented using a BIM.

For some aspects of fenestration products that might be rather straightforward. For example, both the 2006 IBC and 2006 IRC require exterior windows and sliding doors to be tested and labeled in accordance with AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440. The BIM data for that product would then simply be whether or not it is labeled; or perhaps could be expanded to include product type, performance grade and class. Including the performance grade (which includes an indication of design pressure rating) would also facilitate demonstration of compliance with the wind load provisions of those codes. Similarly, the BIM data needed for a fenestration product to demonstrate compliance with the IECC or the energy provisions of the IRC might simply be that product's U-factor, SHGC and, possibly, air leakage rate.

In some cases reducing the information needed to BIM data, however, is likely to be more difficult. For example, although both the 2006 IBC and IRC require exterior windows and sliding doors to be labeled in accordance with AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440, other types of fenestration products, such as storefront, curtainwall, side hinged do ors, etc., are to be tested for design pressure in accordance with ASTM E330 and the glass designed in accordance with ASTM E1300. Can the information on a test report, including span and spacing of the framing system, type of glass, type and location of anchors, etc., be reduced to a BIM? This may be more of a challenge.

A demonstration of the Smartcode system, for evaluation of a building for compliance with the IECC, is available at www.iccsafe.org/smartcodes.

The ICC has formed code action committees to study the existing International Codes and make proposed changes. The purpose of these committees differs from those of the ICC Code Technology Committee, which was formed specifically to respond to topics assigned to it by the ICC Board of Directors. Historically topics assigned to the ICC CTC have been those issues that have "taken up a lot of time (generated a lot of discussion) on the hearing floor." The intent of the ICC CTC was to remove some of the controversy from the hearing process and allow all interested parties a venue for discussion, with some hope for resolution, before the topic is brought back to the hearing floor.

The ICC Code Action Committees are intended to be more proactive. By identifying areas where the International Codes could be improved and bringing forth recommended proposals for those improvements, it is hoped the ICC CACs can facilitate the ongoing maintenance of the International Codes.

The three ICC CACs, and their assigned areas of responsibility, are as follows:

  • CAC-B-Building related codes, including- all chapters of the IBC and Chapters 1-10 of the IRC
  • CAC- MPG-Mechanical, Plumbing & Fuel Gas related codes, including IRC M/P, IMC, IPC & IFGC
  • CAC- Oth-Other codes, including IECC, IRC Chapter 11 & other I-Codes as evaluated by the CAC.

ICC has formed a blue ribbon panel to respond to threats of wildfire in urban wildland interface areas. The purpose of the panel is to help at risk communities develop and begin the implementation of a wildfire protection plan by bringing together individuals who represent state, local and private sector interests. Further information is available at www.iccsafe.org/news/nr/2007/0820wildfire.html.

Code Arena is brought to you by the America Architectural Manufacturers Association. Julie Ruth may be reached through AAMA at 847/303-5664 or via e-mail at julruth@aol.com.