California launches nation’s first green building standards code


The California Building Standards Commission has announced that the nation’s first Green Building Standards Code became effective on August 1, 2009.

The Code, the culmination of a two-year effort by the Commission, is aimed at enhancing the design and construction of buildings through the use of building concepts having a positive environmental impact and encouraging sustainable practices in the areas of planning and design, energy efficiency, water efficiency and conservation, material conservation and resource efficiency, and environmental air quality.

In particular the Code encourages for a green building more than 15 percent reduction in energy usage when compared to the state’s mandatory energy efficiency standards, and a 20 percent reduction in potable water use. Additionally, the Code establishes methods for significant improvements in water usage for plumbing fixtures, has measures for specific household and landscape water conservation reductions, identifies improvements to air quality and resource conservation, and suggests various site improvements such as parking for hybrid vehicles and better storm water plans.

The Code is applicable to both state and residential buildings throughout California, as well as buildings such as schools and hospitals and historical buildings, and applies to planning, design, operation, construction, replacement, use and occupancy, location, maintenance, removal and demolition.

“California continues to lead the way in its efforts to reduce the impact buildings have on our environment. This new code encourages the use of renewable, recyclable, and recycled material in the building process, requiring all California buildings to be constructed with the environment in mind,” said Dave Walls, executive director of the Commission. “While the new code is voluntary, it is the first step toward meeting the Governor’s 2010 objective.”

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger established the Green Building Initiative in December 2004, with the state leading the way in designing, operating and re-engineering its buildings to make them the most resource efficient, energy efficient and healthful public buildings in the nation. The 2010 targets are a 10 percent reduction in electricity demand and carbon emission reduction of 500,000 metric tons. Other targets are a 20 percent electricity demand reduction by 2015 and 1.8 million metric ton carbon emission reduction by 2020.

The Green Building Standards Code establishes a two tiered 15 or 30 percent energy savings above current levels – already among the most stringent in the nation – for all buildings through a combination of measures. These include more energy efficient appliances and installations, energy monitoring, demand response, building design and construction, and on-site renewable energy.

Meanwhile the California Energy Commission has announced a revised effective date for the 2008 Building Energy Efficiency Standards of January 1, 2010. These Standards were scheduled to become effective on August 1, 2009, but delays have been experienced in completing the public domain compliance software. The Energy Commission has said it will use the additional time to provide more information for the Standards and to work with the state utilities, building industry and the California Building Officials to provide training on the new Standards.