2020 National Green Building Standard: Understanding Land Use Updates

The ICC 700-2020 National Green Building Standard® (NGBS), had important updates to a couple of key sections regarding land use and housing development. According to the National Association of Home Builders, it is important for builders to take notice of these changes. Although there is continuity from the 2015 NGBS in many areas, understanding the changes and new offerings will enable developers and builders to determine the compliance path that works best for their project.

In Section 4 of the 2020 National Green Building Standard site design and development are defined. This section will give points for sustainable land development that is ultimately planned for residential construction. This section was created to help reduce detrimental environmental impacts by enhancing the natural features and improving the quality of the site.

A builder can earn between one to four stars for the number of points earned by the certification defined in Section 4. In the spring 2020 edition, changes were made to Subsection 403.6 Landscape Plan, Subsection 403.7 Wildlife Habitat and Subsection 405.11 Insect Mitigation.

Subsection 403.6 Landscape Plan allows up to an additional 28 points. The new categories in the 2020 update include points for spray irrigation and third-party qualified water-efficient grasses. An example is Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA) which limits water and energy use anywhere turf is planted.

Subsection 403.7 Wildlife Habitat allows up to an additional 6 points. Points are awarded on the design of sites abutting wildlife corridors, fish and game parks, or preserved areas. An example of this would be the outdoor lighting that would be close to the wildlife habitat.

Subsection 405.11 Insect Mitigation is a new category that has been added to the 2020 NGBS. A builder can receive up to 19 points for landscaping that helps reduce insect-borne disease.

Section 5 includes lot design, preparation and development. The points earned in this section have increased in the 2020 NGBS in subsection 503.1 Natural Resources, 503.4 Stormwater Management and 503.5 Landscape Plan to 19 points. Also, the following subsections have been added in 2020, 505.7 Multi-Unit Residential Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Vehicle Fueling which allows 4 points, 505.8 Street Network gives an additional 5 points and 505.10 Exercise and Recreational Space gives up to 9 points.

Other notable changes made between 2020 and 2015 NGBS are that 2020 verifies practices via the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Wildland Urban Interface Code and the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA). The 2020 National Green Building Standard® is a great tool for builders to work with and helps improvements on the development of land and lots. The standards give builders and land developers the flexibility needed to develop land and lots that are sustainable, cost effective and appropriate for their geographic location.

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