Cities Prepared For California’s New Green Building Code

As many of California’s cities have adopted green building ordinances over the last several years, the state’s new Green Building Standards Code, to be added to the building standards code on January 1, 2011, is not likely to hinder development in these communities. The Green Building Standards Code will be Part 11 of the California Building Standards Code in Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations.

The new Green Building Standards Code, known as CALGreen, is the first in the nation statewide mandatory green building code for newly constructed buildings. Finalized earlier this year by the California Department of Housing and Community Development and the Building Standards Commission, CALGreen is a comprehensive code that will apply to newly constructed residential, commercial, school and hospital buildings. Residential-type buildings, such as single family dwellings, and motels, hotels, and apartments of three stories or less, are subject to the CALGreen Code when constructed new, under a permit issued on or after January 1, 2011. Newly-constructed nonresidential buildings subject to CALGreen include, among others, state-owned buildings, state universities, and privately-owned buildings used for retail, office and medical services. While CALGreen applies to all newly constructed buildings unless otherwise exempted by law (i.e. federal buildings and buildings constructed on Indian land or reservations) it does not apply to remodels and additions.

CALGreen contains both mandatory and voluntary standards for the design and construction of buildings and construction site management. The Code will require, among other standards, that new buildings constructed in California reduce water consumption by 20 percent (based on the maximum allowable water use per plumbing fixture and fittings as required by the California Building Standards Code), divert 50 percent of construction waste from landfills and install low pollutant-emitting materials, among other conservation measures. The California Air Resources Board estimates that the mandatory provisions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent) by 3 million metric tons equivalent in 2020.

While CALGreen is the first mandatory statewide green building program, many cities in California have already enacted their own green building codes. Los Angeles began imposing its green building code rules in April 2008. San Francisco followed shortly thereafter by enacting its green building ordinance in August 2008.

In response to this new wave of local green building regulations, and in anticipation of the State’s program, many smaller California communities also have recently begun to adopt new green building measures. For example, the City of Burlingame adopted a green building ordinance on October 18, 2010 that will impose certain green construction requirements in residential and commercial projects.

Anticipating that many municipalities would want some measure of autonomy in creating their own green building rules, CALGreen allows local jurisdictions to retain their already existing, stricter green building standards, or adopt stricter versions of the state’s code. Thus, those communities with pre-existing green building ordinances that are stricter than the state’s program may not need to implement CALGreen, the new statewide green building code. CALGreen will provide a set of uniform green building code provisions that smaller communities, lacking sufficient resources to develop their own green construction codes, can incorporate into their local building codes.

With less than one month until the implementation of CALGreen, municipalities and industry professionals should begin to familiarize themselves with the new rules. California’s Green Buildings Standards Code can be downloaded at the Buildings Standards Commission website.