Behind the Scenes of DC’s First Green Construction Code

When the Council of the District of Columbia (DC) approved the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs’ (DCRA) adoption of updated building design and construction codes on March 28 this year, a pioneering event occurred: DC’s first green codes were created.

DCRA’s Construction Codes Coordinating Board (CCCB) assigned each discipline-specific code to a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) responsible for making recommendations for amendment. I had the opportunity to collaborate with government officials and other industry professionals as part of the Green TAG; together, we developed an amended version of the 2012 International Green Construction Code (IgCC) that now serves as DC’s first green construction code.

Goals of the Green TAG

The goal of the Green TAG was to amend the IgCC for adoption in a way that struck a balance between sustainability and commercial viability. Another key part of amending the code was to make sure that all components of the IgCC that overlapped with existing DC regulations were removed. These are exciting new changes that continue pushing the building industry towards even greater energy savings, sustainable design, and conservation.

How Do the New Codes Affect Your Work?

If you haven’t been following these developments closely, you’re probably wondering how you’ll be affected as a design or construction professional operating in Washington, DC. As of now, all projects must comply with all newly adopted codes, and those over 10,000 SF must comply with the green code, in order to receive permits from DCRA. However, there are two notable exceptions:

  • You may complete project design under the previous code during a grace period that lasts through March 28, 2015, provided you can prove that an accepted design contract was in force prior to March 28, 2014. That contract must be accompanied by a notarized affidavit stating that the contract is true and accurate, along with the design drawings and application for permit. All documentation must be submitted and permit fees paid prior to the expiration of the grace period.
  • First generation tenant fit-outs in a structure built under the previous codes may also complete design through the grace period. However, the permit for these projects must be obtained prior to the expiration of the grace period on March 28, 2015.


The full text of the Final Rulemaking for each discipline can be found here; refer to Subtitle 12-A (Building Code Supplement of 2013) for the full text of exceptions related to Existing Design Contracts (123.1.3) and Tenant Layout Permits (123.1.4).

While the DC Green Code is not LEED, if you’re familiar with the USGBC’s rating systems you shouldn’t see anything particularly new or surprising when you review it. I highly recommend that you designate a person, or ideally a team, within your firm to review and understand the new codes. It will be equally important to make sure that all of your design team members understand them before undertaking efforts that must be compliant with them for permit.

GHT has developed an AIA-Accredited presentation with more insight on DC’s new green codes. Contact us if you would like to schedule a session in your office or attend an upcoming group training session at GHT’s office.


As a Senior Principal of GHT’s Interiors studio, Patrick Kunze, PE, LEED AP is committed to advancing sustainable design practices in the building industry. He contributed to the development of questions for the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) LEED AP exam, and as a voting member of the Green Technical Advisory Group (TAG) subcommittee of Washington DC’s Construction Codes Coordinating Board (CCCB), he helped review and amend the DC Green Construction Code.