Nation’s first mandatory state green building standards

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced last month the adoption of the mandatory Green Building Standards Code (CALGREEN) by the California Building Standards Commission. It takes effect on January 1, 2011, and its intent is to create major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and water use. According to the press release:

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.

Upon passing state building inspection, California’s property owners will have the ability to label their facilities as CALGREEN compliant without using additional costly third-party certification programs.

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.

Jennifer Caterino from the Architect’s Newspaper writes that “For now, the code only takes new construction into consideration, ignoring existing building stock.” In her article, she describes an industry thought that it will have to address the existing buildings, “if no other reason than to comply with Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Act.” There is an expectation to see some revision in the updated code in 2013, but how drastic the changes will be is hard to speculate, based on that this new mandatory code is not much variance from the earlier voluntary one.

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