What do the numbers 4, 189.1, and 2014 and 13 all have in common?
The first three numbers reference different foundational standards that have independently attempted to define a green building: The USGBC’s LEEDv4, ASHRAE 189.1, and IgCC 2014. The last number is a reference to the mission to moon that nearly ended in disaster, but ultimately came to symbolize the best in American ingenuity: Apollo 13.
The Benefits of Collaboration
What strikes me about the new green code partnership between the USGBC, ASHRAE, AIA, ICC, and IES is how closely it compares with the Apollo program. In order to move quickly, at the demand of President John F. Kennedy (JFK), NASA had separate teams working on the same project.
One created the lunar lander, another the capsule, another the command module, and yet another the rocket that gave the three a lift into outer space. It appears that the new partnership will be attempting the same feat with standards alignment.
To be clear, I am a big fan of this type of collaboration. By combining forces, more can be accomplished than when acting alone. The collective standards industry has been spending too many resources having separate teams trying to do the same thing for years, which has left building practitioners in a state of confusion over which is best to use.
Cleaning up the roles of each standard and how they should be adopted has the potential to allow:
- 100% of buildings a pathway to high performance. By making LEED prerequisites part of code, a major barrier to LEED adoption will be removed.
- Each partner to do the one thing they are best at doing. The USGBC will be able to define leadership, ASHRAE requirements, and the IgCC code language.
- Local municipalities to follow an easy path to go beyond national codes to address specific regional issues, without having to create their own code language.
- Set the building industry on an unobstructed path towards climate change mitigation.
For the new partnership to work, the USGBC, ASHRAE, AIA, ICC, and IES will each bring something different to the table. There will be parts and pieces that will fit together nicely, but there will be others that overlap.
To borrow directly from the Apollo 13 analogy, they each have their own ways of removing CO2 from air, but one may be round, the other square, and it won’t be clear who has the best one. And, if the result is redundancy without integration, there may be more confusion in the industry that could slow us down.
The success of their mission will hinge on their ability to find a way to align committees, revenue sources, market penetration goals, and standard release dates, most of which already have considerable inertia behind them. There is the potential to be locked in debate for years to come. In fact, the earliest that a new governing standard may be ready for release is 2017, with another year or more for local municipalities to adopt it.
So, here are Paladino’s recommendations to the new green code partnership to make their mission successful, based on the lessons learned from the Apollo program:
- Let climate change mitigation be the singular goal. Don’t bring a secondary set of financial goals to the table that must also be satisfied by the group in order to move forward; if the mission is achieved, each organization will prosper.
- Assign an independent party to lead the initiative. JFK did not care who won and lost during the development of the Apollo program — he kept the teams focused only on getting to the moon and back again safely.
- Lock your best and brightest in a room until the alignment is complete. All the parts and pieces for success already exist within these organizations; focus on connecting the pieces rather than inventing new ones.
- Set a release deadline and stick to it. By doing so, local municipalities, states, practitioners, and code officials will be able to align their future strategies to the new standard. If the dates slip, those counting on you will move forward with their own agenda that could delay success for years.
Now, let’s shoot for the moon!
Brad Pease is Director, AIA, LEED® AP BD+C, at Paladino and Company