building a sustainable and resilient community

America’s Greenest Building Code

Posted on | January 20, 2010 | No Comments

Last week, the California Building Standards Commission unanimously adopted the first-in-the-nation mandatory Green Building Standards Code, also known as “CALGREEN”.  The new standards take effect starting January 1, 2011 and will require all new buildings in the state to be more energy efficient and environmentally responsible.  The new CALGREEN code will require:

  • a 20 percent mandatory reduction in indoor water use, with voluntary goal standards for 30, 35 and 40 percent reductions;
  • Separate water meters for nonresidential buildings’ indoor and outdoor water use, with a requirement for moisture-sensing irrigation systems for larger landscape projects;
  • Requiring diversion of 50 percent of construction waste from landfills, increasing voluntarily to 65 and 75 percent for new homes and 80 percent for commercial projects;
  • Mandatory inspections of energy systems (i.e. heat furnace, air conditioner, mechanical equipment) for nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet to ensure that all are working at their maximum capacity according to their design efficiencies;
  • Requiring low-pollutant emitting interior finish materials such as paints, carpet, vinyl flooring and particle board.

All of this and more information about CALGREEN can be found here.

So what does this mean for the average homeowner?  Well, if you live in California, you may start to see the changes immediately, especially if you are building or planning on buying a house in the next few years, as this new code will affect all new buildings.  Although on the other hand, the changes may not be as noticeable, since California has been at the forefront of energy efficient design for many years, so this code is more like an incremental step rather than a big jump.

Even gas stations in California are designed sustainably: The LEED Certified BP Helios House in LA

Now, if you don’t live in California, you should still pay attention, because you may not be off the hook:  the CALGREEN is the first green building standard in the nation, but it won’t be the last.  There are many states that are not too far behind California in discussing adjustments to their state building codes to make buildings more energy efficient, and those changes to the code might be coming as soon as this year.  States like New York, Minnesota, Florida and Colorado are no strangers to green building guidelines, while Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington have energy efficiency programs in place already.  California has many challenges facing it right now – its crazy budget problems, its constitution, and various other calamities notwithstanding – but it has always been good at leading the pack with regards to energy efficiency.  The CALGREEN program will test the system, and if it works, it will be a great model for the rest of the country.

Of course, you could just get ahead of the curve and start greening your own home without any codes or lawmakers telling you to do so…  🙂



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