The U.S. Conference of Mayors is backing a mandatory "green" construction code that would slash the negative effects of commercial buildings on the natural environment.
The International Green Construction Code, which is being developed by the International Code Council with input from the American Institute of Architects, ASTM International and other stakeholders, includes energy, water, air-quality and safety benchmarks that states and cities may adopt as mandatory provisions for commercial buildings. The code incorporates the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers' (ASHRAE) Standard 189.1 as an optional path to compliance.
The green code, which is amid a public-comment period and slated for release in November, would join the Washington, D.C.-based ICC's family of plumbing, mechanical and residential building codes, explained Jessyca Henderson, AIA's director of sustainability advocacy.
"It's really meant to create a green floor -- the base requirements that can be enforced and have the weight of the law behind them," added Henderson, a professional architect.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution that endorses a draft of the green code, known as Version 1.0, during the more than 1,200-member organization's annual meeting in Oklahoma City yesterday. The mayoral organization, along with the National Association of Governors and National Association of Counties, have endorsed AIA's goal that all new buildings be greenhouse gas-neutral by 2030.
Making buildings more energy efficient -- and ultimately zeroing out their consumption of fossil fuels -- could save the United States up to $140 billion annually, the mayors' resolution claims.
"The building sector contributes over one third of all global greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere each year and represents the single largest opportunity for deep emission cuts," the resolution continues.
A handful of states and cities already require new public buildings to meet sustainable design benchmarks, such as the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Meeting such environmental benchmarks is voluntary for the vast majority of private buildings, however.
"This is evidence that this code is going to meet the needs of everybody -- not just the greenest of cities," Henderson said of the mayors' endorsement of the green commercial code.
Call for more natural gas vehicles
The mayors also called on the federal government to boost its support for natural gas vehicles by renewing tax credits and expanding federal research into natural gas engines.
Contending that an increase in natural gas infrastructure would lead to fewer harmful emissions, reduce dependence on foreign oil and could facilitate more investment in hydrogen vehicle technology, the mayors unanimously urged the White House and Congress to accelerate three separate initiatives.
They called on the House and Senate to pass the "New Alternative to Give Americans Solutions Act" (S. 1408 and H.R. 1835) would renew tax credits for natural gas vehicles, including an increase on credits for passenger cars and light trucks that would offset 80 percent of the cost compared to a conventional vehicle.
The mayors also urged a renewal of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, which would include a 50-cent-per-gallon tax credit for compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas as a vehicle fuel. Finally, they called for expanded federal research and development programs on natural gas applications in the transportation sector.
America's Natural Gas Alliance cheered the resolution, saying the mayors were "demonstrating they stand ready to help lead" the push for more natural gas vehicles.
"The mayors' emphasis on natural gas should serve as a model for federal and state policymakers," the group said in a release. "By taking a page from these local leaders' playbooks, we can take advantage of our nation's vast natural gas resources to advance clean power generation and transportation."
The American Clean Skies Foundation also applauded the action and noted that the mayors' resolution lined up nicely with its own set of proposals.
"This resolution proves that mayors are keenly aware of the role natural gas can play in decarbonizing their cities and spurring the local economy," said CEO Gregory Staple. "The low-cost opportunities to run municipal fleets on natural gas would result in budget savings and cleaner air, especially compared to diesel."
Clean fuel was a major subject at the conference. Many mayors were picked up in CNG vehicles and a reception hosted by ANGA, the American Lung Association and three local gas companies rewarded 16 mayors that had taken steps to boost natural gas infrastructure. There was also a display of city and fleet vehicles, including school buses and taxis, that could run on natural gas.