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Greening California One Building at a Time

Columnist: Rosario Marin
November, 2008 Issue

Rosario Marin
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If you wanted to make everyone in California build energy-efficient buildings, how would you do it? Would you enact new standards, city-by-city and jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction, creating a jumble of different regulations? Or would you enact a new set of building codes and enforce the same energy and other efficiency standards across the state?

Governor Schwarzenegger
believes the answer is to change the building codes and make sure everyone who builds in California will be held to the same strict environmental standards. On July 17, the California Building Standards Commission (BSC) did just that. The BSC, charged with setting building standards and codes for every commercial building constructed in this state, adopted California’s first-ever statewide Green Building Codes. These codes now give our state the most advanced building standards in the nation.

The new 2009 codes, which take effect next July, require significant improvements in water use for plumbing fixtures, specify household and landscape water conservation reductions of 20 percent for homes, and set 15 percent stronger requirements for energy savings than we currently enforce. We’ll find these energy savings through a combination of more efficient windows, appliances and better insulation. These codes also encourage the use of recycled materials in carpets and building materials, identify several improvements to air quality, and suggest various site improvements, including parking for hybrid vehicles and better stormwater plans.

Our partners in developing these new standards are the Department of General Services, Department of Housing and Community Development, Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, and the state’s building industry.

As the state’s real estate arm, the Department of General Services has been constructing energy-efficient buildings for years, and already meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for all new construction projects. This on-the-ground knowledge has helped us create an advanced, energy-efficient and sustainable code that’s practical today. The Department of Housing and Community Development has provided residential expertise, and Health Planning and Development contributed health care facilities know-how. We’re also proud that the state’s builders—the Commission’s greatest asset—have attended our public comment sessions and provided valuable input.

Together we created new standards that go well beyond the Title 24 energy standards that California adopted a few years ago—which put us on the map as environmental trailblazers—and that the California Energy Commission has recently strengthened. Those standards have contributed to our state keeping energy consumption nearly flat while the population has grown. The Title 24 standards have become the model for many other states.

Once again, California is ready to step back in and lead. It’s time to go further than Title 24, and our new California Green Building Code is the right step. I encourage anyone interested in the “greening” of our state to view the codes on our website at www.bsc.ca.gov. By working together now, we can make California a better place for generations to come.

Rosario Marin is secretary of the State Consumer Services Agency and chairwoman of the California Building Standards Commission. Contact her at info@scsa.ca.gov.


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