California Adopts Mandatory Green Building Code

January 13, 2010

The California Building Standards Commission unanimously adopted yesterday the first-in-the-nation mandatory Green Building Standards Code (CalGreen) requiring all new buildings in the state to be more energy efficient and environmentally responsible. Taking effect on January 1, 2011, the regulations are designed to achieve major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and water use.

"With this first-in-the nation mandatory green building standards code, California continues to pave the way in energy efficiency and environmental protection. Today's action lays the foundation for the move to greener buildings constructed with environmentally advanced building practices that decrease waste, reduce energy use and conserve resources," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "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."

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. It also requires 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 over 10,000 square feet to ensure that all are working at their maximum capacity and according to their design efficiencies. 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.

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, officials point out. Many of the mandatory provisions in the code are already part of the statewide building code, making verification of CalGreen an easy transition for local building inspectors. The code benefits California's property owners, state officials also note, because they will have the ability to label their facilities as CalGreen compliant without using additional costly third-party certification programs.

"We are committed to seeing the Governor's vision for developing a green framework in California become a reality," said Tom Sheehy, California State and Consumer Services Agency Acting Secretary . "This new standard will set a nationwide example of how to incorporate building smart, resource-efficient and environmentally-responsible buildings into the everyday fabric of our state."

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 our natural resources.

More information on CalGreen is available at the California Building Standards Commission Web site.