While many were making their annual New Year’s resolutions to exercise more and drink less, CALGreen took effect in California, setting a new precedent for the state’s green building codes. CALGreen, or the 2010 California Green Building Standards Code, is a comprehensive set of standards intended to improve energy efficiency, conserve water, build healthier greener structures and allow owners to save money, particularly during these tough economic times. “With this first-in-the-nation mandatory green building code, California continues to pave the way in energy efficiency and environmental protection,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a statement last year.
Based on the LEED standards created by US Green Building Council (USGBC), CALGreen sets a higher bar for new building construction in the state, outlining both voluntary and mandatory standards. Specifically, CALGreen requires the reduction of indoor water use by 20 percent, separate indoor and outdoor water meters for nonresidential buildings, a mandatory minimum of 50 percent of construction waste must be diverted from landfills, low-VOC interior finish materials and mandatory inspections of energy systems for nonresidential buildings exceeding 10,000 square feet in size. Those who wish to conserve more water or energy or divert more waste are encouraged to do so through established goals and benchmarks.
Though CALGreen is intended to make it easier to build green in California, there is concern that the standards do not go far enough to ensure that the buildings and homes maintain peak green performance long after work is complete. Additionally, some have expressed apprehension that these standards may be an expensive burden to bear with the state of the economy.
California has long been a green leader, setting the bar for other states. Since 2004 all new state buildings constructed in California must meet LEED silver requirements. Additionally, the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), which requires a thorough environmental assessment (EA) and environmental impact statement (EIS) before construction can begin, was essentially based on a similar California regulation.