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Apr 7, 2010 2:00 PM  PST

From the Executive Director's Desk: The California Green Building Standards Code and Build It Green 

Since the passage of the California Green Building Standards Code in January, we’ve received a lot of questions.  Many of you are wondering what the Code means, how it will affect your city or business, and how Build It Green and GreenPoint Rated are responding to the legislative changes.  To help answer some of these questions, I am providing a brief summary of the code and our position on it.
 
California Green Building Standards Code Summary:
The Code, approved on January 12 of this year, applies to all new commercial and residential buildings in California with some exceptions for state agency regulated buildings such as hospitals.  It includes a list of mandatory green building measures that must be applied to every new building starting January 1, 2011.  The Code’s water efficiency measures won’t become mandatory until July 2011.
 
Beyond the mandatory measures, the Code also includes two ‘tiers’ that local governments may choose to adopt.  Each tier adds a further set of green building measures that go above and beyond the mandatory measures of the Code.  There are separate but similar sets of tiers for residential and commercial buildings.  In both cases, Tier 1 requires that buildings achieve a 15% improvement over the current Title 24 Part 6 code (California energy code), and Tier 2 requires that buildings achieve a 30% improvement over Title 24.  Both tiers require additional non-energy prerequisites, as well as a certain number of elective measures in each green building category (energy efficiency, water efficiency, resource conservation, indoor air quality and community).  If a local government chooses to go beyond the baseline Code by adopting one of the tiers, it will be up to each city to decide whether the tier will be voluntary or mandatory, and how the additional measures will be enforced.

Build It Green’s Position and the Role of GreenPoint Rated:
Build It Green supports the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) and the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in their decision to adopt these ground-breaking standards.  The new Code sets a national precedent in green building.  As CBSC and HCD develop and refine the Code, we are committed to working with them and other state agencies to ensure that the code remains meaningful and accessible to builders in California.  
 
Local governments will be able to amend the State code based on climatic, topographical or geological conditions.  While regional jurisdictions cannot adopt an ordinance that takes the place of the state building code, they can amend, add to, or delete provisions of the state code based on local conditions.  If a city wants to make an amendment, or if it decides to adopt one of the tiers described above as a mandatory standard, it must justify this amendment to the BSC in the form of “findings”.  Using GreenPoint Rated as a pathway to achieve green building measures that go beyond the new Code is one possible amendment local governments can make.  
 
Over the past four years, GreenPoint Rated has become a well-known consumer label in California, and approximately 70 local jurisdictions throughout the state refer to GreenPoint Rated in their regional green building programs.  Regardless of whether official amendments are made, we believe local governments should urge builders to go beyond the Code’s minimum requirements by rewarding them for participating in voluntary, market-based labeling programs (like GreenPoint Rated or LEED).  Even if these labeling programs are not part of a jurisdiction’s Code, they do give builders a differentiation in the marketplace.  It is for this reason that we will encourage local governments to include programs like GreenPoint Rated and LEED as equivalent compliance pathways in their tiers.
 
Build It Green will continue to assist local governments in several key ways.  We will help local governments evaluate policy options for their individual needs and conditions.  We will help local governments reconcile the new Code with their pre-existing programs, especially those that utilize GreenPoint Rated.  And we will help local governments implement verification processes to makes sure the measures in their tiers are being followed (whether cities will have third-party verification is also up to each jurisdiction to decide for themselves).  We are working on incorporating recommendations and guidance into Build It Green’s 2010 Roadmap for Green Building Policy, a tool that is currently under development and will be available soon on our website.  Until then, we are always available to answer your questions.  

Having a statewide building code that mandates green building measures is a momentous achievement in our state’s history and for the green building movement in general.  We understand that there will be a lot of questions surrounding this development, especially as we get closer to the date of enforcement.  Build It Green will continue to serve as a source of information and expertise, and I will be sure to keep you informed as we go along.

Thank you as usual for all your support of our organization’s mission and green building in general.

Sincerely,



Catherine A. Merschel
Executive Director
Build It Green

 

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