California Adopts First Statewide Green Building Code

July 23, 2008
California on July 17 became the first state to enact a green building code, aiming to increase energy efficiency and reduce water consumption in all construction throughout the state. The new standards include provisions which will increase the stringency of existing statewide energy standards by 20 percent.

“Once again California is leading the nation and the world in emissions reductions and finding new ways to expand our climate change efforts,” says Rosario Marin, chair of the California Building Standards Commissions. “The commission should be commended for bringing everyone to the table including representatives of the construction and building trades industry, environmental groups and labor organizations, and achieving something no other state has been able to."

Industry groups quickly issued statements backing the move, claiming that it will move green building into the mainstream.

“California homebuilders are already building homes that are far more energy-efficient than homes built to national standards, and that also conserve water and other important natural resources,” says Robert Rivinius, California Building Industry Association president and CEO. “In fact, the carbon footprint of a new home built today is already 25 percent less than that of a home built in 1990. CBIA says the new standards will make new California homes approximately 50 percent more energy-efficient than homes built to national energy standards.

“Our members are willing and eager to take green building to the next step, but we need consistent, understandable and cost-effective standards that will ensure we don’t add to the state’s already critical housing affordability problems,” Rivinius adds. “By mandating these practical and cost-effective green building standards statewide, the state is once again taking a pioneering role in ensuring Californians enjoy environmentally friendly homes at a cost they can afford.”

"It should come as no surprise that as the state with the most up to date building codes in the nation, California is also the first state in the nation to adopt a Green Building Standards Code,” says Kurt Cooknick, director of regulation and practice for the American Institute of Architects, California Council. “The AIACC applauds the hard work of the many individuals and entities that collaborated toward this effort to protect California's environment and promote energy efficiency in the built environment.”

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a green building standard in October 2007, citing a conflict in the green standard and existing state safety standards and encouraging the state commission to develop a standard through an open process.

The new code contains standards for single-family homes, health facilities and commercial buildings. The code is composed of optional standards that will become mandatory in the 2010 edition of the code. This adjustment period will allow for industry and local enforcement agencies to prepare for, and comply with, the new green building standards, the commission reports.

Moving forward after 2010, the California Green Building Standards Code will be updated on an annual basis to ensure that the latest technology and methods of construction have been incorporated to always maintain a high level of standards.