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Time to Get Ready for New Mandatory California Green Building Code

California’s first-in-the-nation mandatory green building code – CALGreen – will take effect on January 1, 2011. CALGreen establishes uniform, mandatory minimum green building regulations throughout the State. Local jurisdictions need to carefully review CALGreen before it takes effect to determine if they want to adopt amendments, and how CALGreen affects existing local green building ordinances. Entities involved in building or designing new structures will need to understand the new requirements and their effects on building plans and development projects.

CALGreen applies to new construction and sets forth standards that focus on conserving energy and resources to further the greenhouse gas reduction goals of AB 32. CALGreen addresses planning and site design, energy efficiency, water efficiency, material conservation, and construction waste reduction. The standards apply to both residential and non-residential (commercial) structures. CALGreen also includes additional voluntary standards that are not mandatory unless adopted by local jurisdictions. These additional standards are included as Tier 1 and Tier 2 in the Code Appendices and establish stricter standards than the mandatory minimum requirements. An example of a Tier 1 or 2 standard is for buildings to exceed 2008 Energy Efficiency Standards by 15% or 30%, respectively.

Examples of CALGreen standards for new construction include:

  • 20% mandatory reduction in indoor water use (voluntary reductions of 30%, 35% and 40%) and 50% mandatory reduction in landscape irrigation accomplished through performance or prescriptive measures;
  • 50% mandatory diversion of construction waste from landfills (voluntary diversions of 65% and 75% for new homes and 80% for commercial projects);
  • Mandatory quality inspections of energy systems, such as air conditioners, for non-residential buildings over 10,000 square feet; and
  • Indoor pollution control measures, such as mandatory low-pollutant emitting interior finish materials (ex. paints, carpet, and vinyl flooring).

Since CALGreen is part of the 2010 updates to the California Building Standards Code (Title 24), local jurisdictions will have 180 days after its expected publication date – July 4, 2010 – to adopt amendments to the mandatory requirements before they take effect. Localities may only make amendments to CALGreen based upon specified climatic, topographical, or geological findings that must be filed with the California Buildings Standards Commission and the California Energy Commission (the same process that applies to Title 24 generally). Jurisdictions with existing green building ordinances will need to review them for compliance with the minimum mandatory requirements of CALGreen. Some local green building ordinances may require amendments or findings on specified climatic, topographical, or geological conditions to authorize requirements that do not meet the State minimum standards. Jurisdictions also may consider adopting the more stringent standards under CALGreen’s Tier 1 or Tier 2 provisions.

The adoption of CALGreen is an important development for agencies, builders, and developers throughout the State. Now is the time to understand CALGreen’s requirements and impacts before it takes effect. Meyers Nave’s Climate Change and Green Initiatives team has expertise on the new CALGreen requirements and its implications on local green building regulations. For more information on CALGreen, or other green building issues, contact Tim Cremin or Erin Burg Hupp at 800.464.3449.