USGBC National Capital Region: Montgomery County legislative update
It was a packed room at the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development on December 17, as stakeholders from across the county gathered to offer input and commentary on MCER NO. 21-15, a proposed regulation for the adoption of the 2012-IgCC with amendments.
The room reflected general support for the county’s leadership in seeking to adopt a green code, but the overwhelming majority of speakers who testified requested further revision to the regulation as proposed, mostly to facilitate or require the development of greener buildings. Michael Subin, a designee from the County Executive’s office, joined Hadi Monsouri from the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) to gather the feedback.
The public comment period for this regulation has been extended to 5:00 p.m. on January 14, 2016, to allow more participation following the holiday season.
As noted in the last legislative update, USGBC National Capital Region and USGBC Maryland will be submitting a letter to DPS and the County Council, and we have invited agreeing stakeholder companies and organizations to sign on. Because the public comment period has been extended until January 14, we will accept cosigners through Tuesday, January 12. Please email Jennifer Wellman-Andryuk to sign on to our letter.
We also encourage all affected parties and individuals in Montgomery County to write their own letters to DPS and the County Council.
Summary of Testimony
Many speakers voiced concern that too many parts of the 2012-IgCC were slated to be moved to the appendix in the county’s proposed version, weakening the environmental benefits of a stronger code, especially with respect to energy efficiency. Reservations were also expressed regarding the regulation's perceived disincentivizing of building beyond the proposed green code baseline, especially without facilitating a proper transition for the industry toward this new set of regulatory expectations.
- Exempt projects that earn credible leadership labels for green building achievement that are currently popular in Montgomery County, specifically LEED and Green Communities, from requirements of the green code, as is done in neighboring communities such as Baltimore City and Washington, DC.
- Maintain the scope of the county’s green building requirements to buildings greater than 10,000 square feet.
- Ensure the county’s current exemplary green building baseline is not compromised with this new code.
- Confirm that DPS has the resources it needs to administer a smooth, swift and effective code implementation process, which we think could be best facilitated by establishing a work group to advise on IgCC implementation. This work group could help both to articulate what projects are and aren’t grandfathered under the current green building law and to examine and recommend revisions to the existing waiver process to facilitate reasonable compliance exceptions while maintaining stringency.
These recommendations were supported in testimony offered by Dan Coffey of Therrien Waddell, a member of the working group who helped advise on the regulation; Steven Karr of Steven Karr AIA, Inc.; and Eugenia Gregorio of The Tower Companies.
Several speakers—including Janice Szymanski and Wayne Broadfield of AIA PV and Ralph Bennett of University of Maryland and Bennett Frank McCarthy Architects—offered additional testimony arguing to maintain the current scope of size requirements at 10,000 square feet. They also testified in favor of amending the regulation to include a transition period, whereby buildings earning third-party certifications that are currently accepted under the current regulation would continue to be exempt for a given time. County officials responded favorably, and are currently seeking feedback on what an appropriate transition period would be.
Additionally, speakers such as Annette Rosenblum of the Maryland Building Industry Association (MBIA) asked for the regulation to be amended to allow buildings that have already reached significant points in the design phase to be grandfathered in under the old regulation. MBIA and the Home Innovation Research Labs suggested the need for flexibility through alternative compliance pathways with third-party certification.