California Adopts Nation's First Statewide Green Building Standard

January 27, 2010

The California Building Standards Commission unanimously adopted the first-in-the-nation mandatory Green Building Standards Code, called CALGreen, on January 12. The program, which takes effect on January 1, 2011, will require all new buildings in the state to be more energy efficient and environmentally responsible. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the action lays the foundation for the move to greener buildings constructed with environmentally advanced building practices that reduce energy use, decrease waste, and conserve resources.

CALGreen will require mandatory inspections of energy systems (such as furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners, and other mechanical equipment) for nonresidential buildings with more than 10,000 square feet of floor space, to ensure that the energy systems are working at their maximum capacity and according to their design efficiencies. It also requires that every new building constructed in California reduce water consumption by 20%, divert 50% of construction waste from landfills, and install materials that emit low amounts of indoor pollutants. In addition, separate water meters are required for nonresidential buildings' indoor and outdoor water use, with a requirement for moisture-sensing irrigation systems for larger landscape projects. While water conservation is itself a priority in the state, water consumption is directly tied to energy consumption. A 2005 report from the California Energy Commission (CEC) found that water use consumes 19% of the state's electricity, 30% of its natural gas, and at least 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year, although those figures included water heating. See the CEC report (PDF 1.3 MB). Download Adobe Reader.

The California Air Resources Board estimates that the mandatory provisions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide 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 third-party certification programs. See the governor's press release and the Web site for the California Building Standards Commission, which has not yet posted the CALGreen code.