As one of the five elements of a Complete Community, sustainable refers to communities that are planned, built, or modified to promote sustainable living. This may include sustainability aspects relating to reproduction, water, transportation, energy, waste, and materials. The commitment to environmentally friendly building practices generates opportunities for communities to promote sustainable living. Sound building principles play an important role in enhancing the community’s long-term economic, social, and environmental health, while supporting the safety, welfare, and quality of life of its citizens.
Today’s commitment to energy efficiency, sustainability, and protection has placed demands on local governments that oversee the construction of new buildings and the renovation of existing structures. The 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is a model code designed to help conserve energy in both commercial buildings and residential structures while providing direction for safe and sustainable building design and construction. The 2015 version of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) was recently adopted, which provides a regulatory framework that establishes minimum green building requirements for buildings and complementary rating systems, like LEED. Both model codes establish minimum or baseline sustainable design requirements for new and existing commercial buildings and residential structures. The IgCC is an “overlay” code, which means that it adds green provisions on top of existing codes, such as the International Building Code (IBC), IECC, and the other “I-Codes.” When adopted nationwide by states and local governments, IgCC will create a path to cut energy use by commercial buildings, a large consumer of energy. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has created a guide to the IgCC.
Increasingly, local governments are realizing the need to adapt to changing market demands for infill development, redevelopment, and development in areas targeted for growth that incorporates the design and construction of high-performance buildings. Incorporating sustainable practices, materials, and energy- efficient products saves energy and money while protecting the environment and creating a more comfortable, healthful environment. As demand for more energy-efficient buildings increases, governments will need to consider policy changes to reduce the negative impacts and increase the positive impacts of the built environment on the natural environment and local residents. Enacting sustainable building policies and practices can also reduce infrastructure needs and costs to communities and their residents.