ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 40 - 01/28/2010

California Adopts Statewide Green Building Standards Code

California's Building Standards Commission (CBSC) has adopted a mandatory Green Building Standards Code (CALGREEN), which is designed to improve energy efficiency and environmental responsibility for new buildings. CALGREEN, which is believed to be the first such code of its kind in the United States, is scheduled to take effect in January 2011. 

 

CALGREEN will require that every new building constructed in California reduce water consumption by 20 percent, divert 50 percent of construction waste from landfills, and install low pollutant-emitting materials. The code also compels separate water meters for nonresidential buildings' indoor and outdoor water use, with a requirement for moisture-sensing irrigation systems for larger landscape projects and mandatory inspections of energy systems (e.g., heat furnace, air conditioner, and mechanical equipment) for nonresidential buildings exceeding 10,000 square feet to ensure that all are working at their maximum capacity and according to their design efficiencies.


The code requires a 15 percent reduction in energy use compared with what is required in the current California standard Title 24 Part 6, which already exceeds the national model energy code. The code also requires the use of Energy Star appliances. 

 

"The national model energy code and the current California energy code (T24 Part 6) do not address appliance efficiency, so this is a nice addition to boost energy efficiency in residential buildings," Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP) Senior Outreach Manager Cosimina Panetti told GBI. "[Overall,] the code appears to be well thought out and executed." 

 

Upon passing a state building inspection, a California property owner will have the ability to label a facility as CALGREEN compliant without using additional third-party certification programs. 

 

The California Air Resources Board estimated that the mandatory provisions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide equivalent) by three million metric tons equivalent in 2020.

 

When asked to estimate the number of buildings that CALGREEN could affect, California Building Standards Commission Executive Director Dave Walls told GBI, "We do not have a number for commercial buildings built in California, but housing is currently at about 50,000 units per year but was closer to 200,000 per year five years ago."

 

"The code will help us meet our goals of curbing global warming and achieving 33 percent renewable energy by 2020 and promotes the development of more sustainable communities by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency in every new home, office building, or public structure," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said. 

 

In 2007, Schwarzenegger directed CBSC to work with specified state agencies on the adoption of green building standards for residential, commercial, and public building construction for the 2010 code adoption process.

 

"Some of the most important features developed in the newest ... version of [the code] are requirements that deal with compliance: the training and certification of HVAC installers; ensuring third-party inspectors are qualified and can demonstrate competence in their respective disciplines; and more rigorous documentation to show substantial conformance with the code," Panetti said.

 

The mandatory code provisions will become the baseline of regulated green construction practices in the country's most populous state. The BSC, which developed this initial CALGREEN with discussions with environmentalists, architects, builders, local officials, and others, will continue to improve this new code with those interested parties, according to Schwarzenegger.  

 

In addition to the mandatory regulations, CALGREEN also includes more stringent voluntary provisions to encourage local communities to take further action to green their buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency, and conserve natural resources.

 

Several groups providing construction rating systems reportedly have complained that allowing cities and counties to adopt more stringent standards than what is spelled out in the code will lead to confusion among builders and others. 

 

In response, Walls said, "We have had numerous comments from the building industry, design industry, local officials, and many members of the public that the CALGREEN code (including the more stringent options available for local jurisdictions) will lead to a more uniform application, less confusion, and allow the building industry to construct greener buildings without spending thousands on a third-party certification."

 

Like California's existing building code provisions that regulate all construction projects throughout the state, the mandatory CALGREEN provisions will be inspected and verified by local and state building departments. CALGREEN will use the enforcement infrastructure that the state has established to enforce its health, safety, fire, energy, and structural building codes. 

 

Schwarzenegger believes that because many of the mandatory provisions in the code are already part of the statewide building code, verification of CALGREEN will make for an easy transition for local building inspectors.

 

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