California Government and Agencies Commit to Green Building

January 26, 2005

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order in mid-December that commits the state to following a Green Building Action Plan with two goals: to reduce electricity purchased from the grid by existing government and private commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2015 through energy efficiency and distributed generation; and to retrofit, build, and operate public buildings that are highly efficient in terms of energy use and resource consumption. To help meet those goals, the executive order requires state-run entities to purchase Energy Star equipment; seek out leases in Energy Star-rated buildings; and design, construct, and operate all new and renovated state-owned and state-funded facilities to meet the Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). See the governor's executive order and press release.

The state's two large retirement funds—the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS)—both set goals in December to reduce the energy use in their real estate holdings by 20 percent over the next five years. Together, the two funds hold more than 200 million square feet of real estate. The California State Treasurer has estimated that the energy efficiency improvements will cost the two funds a total of $200 million, but will save $40.6 million in energy costs each year, reduce total energy demand by 73 megawatts, and create 4,200 jobs. The two funds have also committed a combined $450 million to private equity investment in cutting-edge environmental technology and renewable energy. See the treasurer's press releases for CalPERS (PDF 171 KB) and CalSTRS (PDF 171 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

The state's efforts in energy efficiency and green building follow the example of a Green Building Ordinance enacted in San Francisco in October 2004. The Green Building Ordinance requires all new city projects, including both city-owned facilities and leased properties, to achieve at least a LEED Silver certification. A prime example is the new California Academy of Sciences museum (soon to be built in Golden Gate Park), which is designed to earn the LEED Platinum certification, the highest certification available from the U.S. Green Building Council. See the San Francisco Department of Environment press release, the California Academy of Sciences Web site, and design information on the Renzo Piano Building Workshop Web site.

The USGBC's LEED Green Building Rating System sets five levels of certification for buildings: certified, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. LEED standards are currently available or under development for a wide variety of buildings. See the LEED page on the USGBC Web site.