Can New Green Building Codes Clear Up the Confusion?

With billions of dollars already invested in clean-energy jobs and manufacturing, the green revolution remains a work-in-progress. But while plenty of tax credits appear to be going to the right place, the lack of cohesive green regulations is making the whole concept a little elusive. But a new series of green building codes could finally be ushering in the kind of change many people have been waiting for.

The international green building codes just announced by the International Code Council, ASHRAE, the U.S. Green Building Council, and Illuminating Engineering Society of North America are an interesting precedent regarding the LEED standard of green building. The major inclusion in the regulations is Standard 189.1, which involves criteria including water-use efficiency, indoor environmental quality, energy efficiency, material and resource use, and the building’s impact on the community. These types of regulations have been building for some time, in some cases creating problems as well as solutions.


Almost two years ago, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law what he called the nation’s strictest green building codes. At that time, eight states had already adopted green building codes. By last year, cities like Santa Fe were enforcing residential green building codes and New York had assembled a green codes task force. In 2010, the city of Portland, state of California, and even the emirate of Dubai have enacted specific green building guidelines. But with these regulations have come criticisms, including environmentalists’ claims that California’s statewide regulations don’t meet the standard set by other state jurisdictions, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. The USGBC Northern California chapter even brought up the possibility that conflicting regulations could cause market confusion.

This type of conflict isn’t unprecedented. In 2008, a federal judge stalled Albuquerque’s green building codes after a lawsuit was filed by contractors citing federal statutes. Meanwhile, Boulder County in Colorado is considering changes to their green building codes.  On the heels of Wyoming’s governor deciding that his state didn’t require green building codes and with an emerging series of conflicts in regulation, the hope is that these new universal guidelines could provide some much-needed clarity in the industry.

With the new regulations still so fresh, there hasn’t been any real verdict passed by advocates yet. But considering the money is already being invested in green, we may finally have some good sense to govern all these good intentions.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Mini-brains attach to spinal cord and twitch muscles

A new method of growing mini-brains produces some startling results.

(Lancaster, et al)
Surprising Science
  • Researchers find a new and inexpensive way to keep organoids growing for a year.
  • Axons from the study's organoids attached themselves to embryonic mouse spinal cord cells.
  • The mini-brains took control of muscles connected to the spinal cords.
Keep reading Show less