January 4, 2010

New California Buildings Now Subject to CALGreen Code

As of January 1, 2011, new residential and nonresidential buildings in California need to comply with certain mandatory environmental requirements outlined in the new 2010 California Green Building Standards Code, popularly known as “CALGreen.” CALGreen stems from former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mandate to reduce greenhouse gases in California.  Estimates predict a reduction of 3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases by 2020 as a result of the requirements of CALGreen.

CALGreen creates uniform and consistent environmental regulations for new California buildings, but it is not meant to replace individual jurisdictions’ environmental programs and ordinances. The Code requires that all local environmental ordinances still be followed. Local jurisdictions also have the ability to amend portions of the Code based on a finding of need due to climate, topography, or geology. Complementary sustainability programs, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (“LEED”), may still be used as long as they do not interfere with the CALGreen requirements.

Among other things, CALGreen is expected to:

  • Reduce construction waste;
  • Make buildings more efficient in the use of materials and energy; and
  • Reduce environmental impact during and after construction.

Only new construction is subject to the mandatory provisions of CALGreen; remodels, retrofits and additions are not affected. Residential buildings subject to CALGreen include buildings that are three stories or less, including motels, hotels, apartments, and one- and two-family dwellings. Nonresidential buildings subject to the Code include state-owned buildings, state university, and community college buildings, and privately owned buildings used for retail, office, and medical services.

The Code includes requirements for site selection, storm water control during construction, construction waste reduction, indoor water use reduction, material selection, natural resource conservation, site irrigation conservation and more. Significant documentation of compliance with these mandatory provisions is required. The Code provides sample compliance forms and worksheets, which may be acceptable or required by the local building department. Commissioning, a process for the verification that all building systems (heating, cooling, lighting, etc.) are functioning at their maximum efficiency, is also required.

In addition to the mandatory requirements, the Code includes Tier 1 and Tier 2 provisions. These are voluntary measures that a building may choose to comply with for even greater efficiencies than those called for in the mandatory requirements, with the Tier 2 provisions being the most efficient possible.

CALGreen is Part 11 of the California Building Standards Code, which is in Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, and is promulgated by the California Building Standards Commission (“CBSC”), an independent commission within the State & Consumer Services Agency that is responsible for implementing the California Building Standards Code. In drafting the Code, CBSC examined environmental programs such as LEED and consulted other California state environmental agencies. The responsibility for enforcing CALGreen is the same as the other provisions of Title 24. New buildings subject to plan review, permits and inspection by the local building department will be subject to the mandatory requirements and enforcement as of January 1, 2011. State-owned buildings will continue to be subject to enforcement by the state.

An update to CALGreen will be issued in July 2012. Interested parties are encouraged to submit public comments to the California Buildings Standards Commission, which must issue a response to any comment it receives. Issues which might be addressed in the update are extending CALGreen to remodels, additions and retrofits and calling for more stringent requirements in line with the voluntary provisions of Tier 1 and Tier 2 measures.

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