The International Green Construction Code and Its Impact on AV

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Type: Article, Report or Whitepaper

Topics: Smart Building Technology (SBT); Sustainable AV

Date: November 2011

By Raymond Kent, CTS, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C

You may not know it, despite all the press surrounding the green movement, but there will soon be another commercial building code that will impact what we do as AV and technology professionals. And sustainability initiatives launched by InfoComm International® offer us an important vehicle for navigating this pending code.

Last June, Randal A. Lemke, Ph.D., Executive Director and CEO of InfoComm, announced formation of the STEP Foundation, which was established in cooperation with trade associations CompTIA, BICSI and TIA to oversee the Sustainable Technology Environments Program (STEP). The STEP Rating System is a tool for building owners and technology providers to plan for and implement sustainable practices in their technology projects. But although STEP is among our industry’s most significant new initiatives, it’s not the building code we’re referring to.

You see, STEP also represents the AV industry’s best entry into the latest green building program: the International Green Construction Code (IGCC).

Background on the IGCC
If you’ve never heard of the IGCC, here’s the skinny: The IGCC was created in response to recognition at all levels of government and by building code professionals that the green construction industry needed a model code that specifies enhanced building performance in many areas, including energy, water, natural resources and material conservation. It recently went through a second public review and it’s scheduled to be published next March.

The new model code will provide a framework for the integration of sustainability, safety and performance. At its foundation is the International Code Council’s established family of model codes. The IGCC will work as an overlay to those codes to reduce the negative impact of the built environment on the natural environment. In the end, it’s envisioned that the IGCC will be a usable, adoptable and enforceable model for the green building market that goes beyond what is currently captured in rating systems such as Green Globe or the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

The IGCC has been developed in association with cooperating sponsors ASTM International and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) also joined the development, and because of this partnership, ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1, which “provides a ‘total building sustainability package’ for those who strive to design, build and operate green buildings,” was integrated into the IGCC as an alternative compliance path. That means jurisdictions may elect to adopt Standard 189.1 as part of their building code requirements. And it’s in the adoption of 189.1 and the IGCC that presents a real opportunity for audiovisual professionals to step into the process and influence the sustainability of a project.

Specifically, what does the IGCC mean for the AV industry? There are several sections that relate to technology and the way we do business. There are also sections that aren’t obviously “green” but are right in an AV pro’s wheelhouse. For example, Section 807 Acoustics says that sound transmission between buildings and tenant spaces must be controlled, meaning designers will now have to design compliant sound systems. Taken together, all relevant sections of the IGCC stand to impact how AV systems are designed and integrated. They also mean forging a deeper relationship with our design team partners: architects, MEP engineers and clients.

Let’s look closer at the current IGCC to learn how it might affect AV.

Inside the Code
For starters, Section 502.3 Storage of lamps, batteries, and electronics requires that a space be provided for used gear prior to its being disposed of in the way that the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) requires. This will require planning and communication with the design team to determine the right type, size and other requirements of that storage. It is also a great opportunity to work with the client on exactly how to discard and recycle its unwanted electronics in an environmentally responsible way and to start a technology master plan discussion with your clients regarding end-of-life issues.

Chapter 6 Energy Conservation, Efficiency, and Atmospheric Quality has perhaps the greatest impact on what AV pros do. This section regulates the design, construction, commissioning and operations of buildings and their sites for effective use of energy. InfoComm’s pending Energy Power Management Standard, as well as STEP, should play a key role in this area because it is one of the first times a model code has directly dealt with the plug-load side of the energy equation. More specifically:

Section 602 Energy Performance, Peak Power, and Reduced CO2e Emissions provides a zero-energy performance index (zEPI) based on occupancy types. Currently, the zEPI baseline is 51 out of a possible 100 points; however, jurisdictions can elect to demand a higher standard. The prescriptive and performance-based compliance details follow in sections 604 to 612 of the Code.

For example, Section 604 Energy Metering, Monitoring, and Reporting mandates that any building consuming energy shall comply with this Code section, basically requiring that the buildings’ energy use, production and any energy reclamation be measured, monitored and reported. This includes not only the design of power distributions systems that can isolate load types, but also the installation of data-enabled metering systems that provide their information to a public display. This information must be made available to building owners, tenants and the public. Who better to provide the display and communications infrastructure to support these requirements than the AV industry?

Plug loads, as described in Section 604.3.4 Plug Loads (read that to include computers, AV equipment, copiers, cell-phone chargers, etc.), can be measured and reported via a sub-meter or other equivalent approved device. There are manufacturers within the AV industry that have the capability to provide this required feedback right now and it should be part of an overall AV solution. There is opportunity here to be a value-added member of the design team right from the start.

One of the more striking provisions of this code section is Section 604.3.5 Process Loads. This area takes into account and provides separate metering and reporting requirement for any single load associated with activities in a building, provided they exceed 5 percent of the total energy use. This includes data centers, but could also include large AV head-ends that are energy-intensive in applications such as museums, performing arts, command and control or broadcast systems. The metering must be connected to a data acquisition and management system capable of storing three years worth of data and must be available to be displayed in real time. The display (604.7 Energy Display) is called out as a permanent, readily accessible and visible display adjacent to the main building entrance or on a publicly available website. It has to provide the current energy demand for the whole building by fuel type, the average peak demand for the previous day and the same day from the previous year, and the total energy usage for the last 18 months.

Call for Control Systems
Section 609 Building Electrical Power and Lighting Systems of the IGCC details the controls required for energy management. Section 609.6 Plug Load Controls is the section that most directly impacts our industry. Receptacles and electrical outlets are required to be controlled via an occupancy sensor or time switch. There are provisions requiring that switched receptacles for audiovisual systems (609.6.4) — including displays, projectors and audio amplifiers in Group B and E classrooms, conference and meeting rooms, and multipurpose rooms — be controlled by an occupancy sensor. This will require some form of room automation system, either from an AV manufacturer that specializes in controls, or a Honeywell, Siemens or Johnson Controls. It is therefore critical for the AV professional to be at the planning table early so that systems are not designed to simply shut off power to the switch without taking into account damage that could result if that plug-load equipment is not properly power sequenced.

Finally (and follow this one closely), particular requirements for installed equipment are detailed in Section 610 Specific Appliances and Equipment. There are a number of components of installed AV systems that would fall into Section 610.3 Portable Appliances and Equipment. These devices, which are not permanently connected to the building energy supply, must comply with Section 610.3.1 Energy Star Appliances and Equipment.

It’s important to note that the Code does not require that all installed products in a building must be Energy Star products — but, where applicable, they must be Energy Star eligible. This could include monitors, projectors and other devices seeking Energy Star certification. It also could include some Class D amplifiers, D to A converters, network server equipment such as switches and routers, and other electronics that may be part of an audiovisual system.

Frankly, the IGCC is a lot to take in. But there is nothing in the Code that is beyond comprehension or good common sense. Still, it’s an important development and will certainly require the inclusion of AV and technology designers as part of the framework of a building project. And that’s good for the industry as a whole. If you want to read on the latest developments of the International Green Construction Code, click here.

For more information about the Sustainable Technology Environments Program, visit the new STEP Foundation website .

Raymond Kent, CTS, LEED AP, Assoc. AIA, is the co-chair of the STEP Foundation’s Technical Committee and Associate Principal and Director of Innovative Technology Design at Westlake Reed Leskosky.