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By Bob Graves

CALGreen has been in effect since January 2011. How would you describe its reception with local governments and the building industry?

The Building Standards Commission, local building officials and the building industry put a lot of effort into the development of CALGreen as it went through the rulemaking process managed by the Commission. We had some insight into its reception when we released the 2008 green building standards code, the initial CALGreen version published as a 100 per cent voluntary code.  A number of jurisdictions voluntarily went ahead and enforced the standards. Based on this, we were hopeful that the 2010 mandatory code would be well received by local government and the building industry.  We’re delighted to see the reception and the open arms it’s received. It was definitely a pleasure for me to see that happen.


A CALGreen code update is slated for July 1st, 2012.  What are the its most significant elements?  Why were these changes incorporated? 

I think of all the changes, the most significant is a new division that has been added to the 2010 CALGreen code.  This intervening cycle added Division 5.7, which covers additions and alterations to existing nonresidential buildings. The intent was to include a large portion of the state’s existing building stock that would benefit from having the green building code applied to them for enforcement.

The City of Los Angeles’ Building and Safety Division commented during one of our early development meetings that we’re missing the largest stock of buildings out there and that’s existing buildings, alterations and additions. Their representative pointed out that about 90 percent of the impact for green construction is going to be realized in existing buildings through remodels, additions and alterations. Having the initial codes applied only to new commercial construction didn’t really give full force to the code.  So, we are hoping by including additions and alterations we will take a much larger step toward our greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal.


The City of Los Angeles included existing commercial buildings in their local amendments to the 2010 CALGreen code. Was their experience sufficiently positive to expand the scope to the entire state? 

Yes, the information we saw and the experiences they brought to the table, really encouraged such a move. We felt it was a logical step to take. The evidence showed it was well received and was successfully working for them. With that support we really looked to the City of Los Angeles to assist us in the development of these provisions. In doing so we also put in triggers to assist its implementation.

One was a threshold limit of 2,000 square feet. Another was a $500,000 cost allowance for alterations. Only buildings above those levels have to meet CALGreen code requirements. Without those two triggers some of the smaller projects might get confused about the newer standards. The idea was to try to clarify the scope of the remodels and additions standard and to start out with these levels.

A few of the other items I’ll just touch on briefly. They don’t have quite as big an impact, but they will help people use the provisions in the initial mandatory 2010 code. One of them is the waste management plan. There is new information provided to help with waste stream reduction. This was to align with the HCD [Housing and Community Development] requirements that are in the code and makes it easier for local jurisdictions and builders to comply with the provisions.

Another item is light pollution reduction. It was a voluntary provision initially and has become a mandatory provision now. It has been rearranged to be more measureable and quantifiable so it can be actually be enforced and managed at the local level. We’re pleased with these provisions. 

There was also a 20 percent water reduction revision. The modification assists calculations using an occupant load Table A factor out of the Uniform Plumbing Code. By incorporating this, the indoor water use 20 percent reduction calculation is easier to make.

The last one that may have some impact is for consumers of large quantities of indoor water. There was some sub-metering added to pick up the sub-systems that buildings have, such as cooling towers, evaporative coolers, hot water boilers and steam boilers. Those types of devices weren’t clearly identified before.


If I understand this correctly, residential housing does not include CALGreen application to existing buildings, remodels and additions?

That’s correct.  I believe the Housing and Community Development Department is on a slightly different track in relation to this section and we may see something coming from them in the near future.


Where can our readers find out more about the specifics of these changes?

As we move forward we are making more and more information available online via the Building Standards Commission website www.bsc.ca.gov/. It has a number of locations that may be of interest to visitors. I would first direct them to the “Publications” tab along the top of our homepage and then under the “Guidebooks and Other Resources” section. There are provisions there that will give you more information regarding some of the standards. 

There are also codes online. When you go to the codes tab and go to the publisher’s information, you’ll be able to link to the supplements and errata insertions for the codes. Additionally, under the Education and Outreach, Calendar of Events location on the website there are PowerPoint presentations that we’ve done recently that also include point by point comparisons between the current 2010 code and what the supplements modify. This is a real concise view of the changes to the green code.


The Energy Commission, California Air Resources Board, and the California Public Utilities Commission have adopted the policy goal to achieve zero net energy, or ZNE building standards by 2020 for residential buildings and 2030 for commercial buildings. Will future versions of CALGreen be tied to this standard? If so, how do you see its evolution occurring?

The Air Resources Board and these other groups were involved in the whole development of standards that initiated CALGreen in the first place. For instance, they’re heavily involved in the air quality standards that are in the code.  So they’ll have significant ongoing input to CALGreen.  I expect future editions will be tied to this standard in order to reach these goals.


If the energy codes are ramped up in their efficiency standards they will be included by reference within CALGreen. Right?

Yes, that’s correct. We’ve had discussions with the Energy Commission regarding the percentages of increase in the Tiers, where there are optional higher level standards available for local adoption, within the code. Tier 1 is typically a 15 percent increase over the baseline and then Tier 2 is 30 percent higher. With the Energy Commission ramping up their requirements for energy compliance, those 15 and 30 percent reaches are going to be much more difficult to obtain. So I think through our discussions there may be proposed modifications to the Tiers to adjust those numbers down to be more aligned with an attainable compliance. 

This, of course, will all be addressed through the adoption process that includes our ongoing efforts to encourage participation. We put out notices electronically and post meeting times on our website to get as many people engaged as possible. The process the Building Standards Commission administers is important to state government and the citizens of the state. Giving everyone a voice and a chance to have input and impact on the provisions before they’re mandated is an important role in getting a well vetted, well developed code. All the steps are important as opposed to developing something in a void and mandating enforcement.


Looking again into the future, the International Code Council’s International Green Construction Code (IgCC) is slated for release in its fully approved version this month.  What will be its influence on future versions of CALGreen? 

It’s hard to predict the future.  The IgCC is a well developed code, and a vast amount of resource was available during its development process. Seeing the value in that process I think we can certainly learn from it. It’s interesting to note that the initial versions of the IgCC were born from the concepts in CALGreen, so there’s an interrelationship that all green standards will have. 

You can assume there will be some interaction. If we will go with the IgCC and adopt it as CALGreen, I couldn’t predict whether that will happen or not.  But any development we do with CALGreen will certainly include groups like the International Code Council, because the depth of their research and development is an asset to everyone. We try to tap into those sources wherever we can.


Anything you’d like to add before we conclude?

We’re getting ready to start the development of the 2013 update of Title 24, which will include all the codes. Included in that, of course, would be the CALGreen code. I don’t anticipate significant modifications. We want the code to rest for a while and allow it to be used in its current form. We’ll see how things go and then make the next modification decisions based on how things worked for the local jurisdictions and the building industry.


Thank you.


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