“Green” is a sky…
I am currently working with an exceptional team on defining the goals and the implementation process for a stretch code in NY. This discussion is at its very beginning, and there are consultant advisers also working on this project, led by NYSERDA to push energy efficiency in buildings. And I hope we will keep some broad understanding of sustainability in there as well (good air quality, water management, life cycle, local economic development, low GHG…)
We may build a suggestion list of things that can be done exceptionally better than code. We may call on LEED or other existing and proven green building guideline as the optimal metric to meet in this stretch code. At this point, we don’t really know, but the initial conversations made me feel the following notion must be re-stated: code is the bottom.
LEED and other standards are “better than code”, usually by a percentage. Code is the least you can do under the law. Anyone promising design or construction of a code-compliant building is certainly a serious underachiever, and I would not trust my project to them. They will spend their time and focus on designing and constructing to what is known to work, without considering what will work better.
Remember, there is great variety in high performing buildings and sustainable projects. There is also a great variety in “code compliant” buildings – good designs, thoughtful use of materials, great use-planning, but many crap buildings built to meet code just fine.
Code is currently about safety. Period. The energy code goes further, but no code mandates anything beyond protection from harm. True sustainability is about support for excellence. As an example, indoor air quality in the case of sustainability is not about just making sure there are no poisons in the air, but making sure the conditions are optimal for actually improving the health and productivity of the building users.
Code is a floor – Green is a sky FULL of possibilities. Let’s reach for them.