California Adopts First-in-Nation Statewide Green Building Regulations

Last week, the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) adopted new, statewide green building standards-the first statewide green building standards in the nation. Dubbed CALGREEN, the regulations will go into effect on January 1, 2011, though they shouldn’t have much immediate effect on projects in San Francisco for reasons described below.

The 2010 Green Building Standards Code, as CALGREEN is officially known, will have mandatory code components and two “tiers” of voluntary components. The “tiers” of voluntary green building requirements provide ready-made means by which local governments can choose to enact higher levels of green building requirements by simply adopting the tiers into a local building code. This significantly assists smaller communities that do not have resources to devote to detailed analysis of greening their codes. Builders could also choose to build to the higher “tier” of green building, regardless of the local government’s adoption of the more stringent requirements. Local governments will still be able to maintain green building standards stricter than the mandatory codes, such as San Francisco’s green building ordinance that uses Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Build It Green third-party certifications.

The 2010 Green Building Standards Code will require:

–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;

–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;

–Low-pollutant emitting interior finish materials such as paints, carpet, vinyl flooring and particle board.

The CALGREEN Code will apply to all residential, commercial, hospital and school buildings, as opposed to some existing green building ordinances, such as that of San Francisco, which applies only to limited building occupancies.

Local government building departments will be responsible for implementation of CALGREEN, just as with all other State health and building codes. CALGREEN requires field inspections to determine compliance.

CALGREEN may challenge the long-term viability of third-party rating systems, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. For instance, the CBSC has stated in a press release that a key benefit of CALGREEN is that it “will allow California’s builders to build to a certifiable green standard without having to pay costly fees for third-party programs.” In turn, the U.S. Green Building Council, sponsor of the LEED rating system, as well as other environmental groups, opposed the CALGREEN standards, claiming that they would confuse the market.

So what will CALGREEN mean for San Francisco projects? Here are a few possibilities. First, it is likely that most standards of San Francisco’s green building ordinance already exceed those of the new mandatory CALGREEN standards. As a result, CALGREEN will not “preempt” San Francisco’s existing green building ordinance, and thus San Francisco can continue to implement its ordinance as written, which requires compliance with LEED and Build It Green private rating systems. Second, while San Francisco can continue to implement its ordinance requiring compliance with third-party rating systems, it will be important for projects to also check the CALGREEN regulations to determine whether some aspect of mandatory CALGREEN requirements applies where San Francisco’s green building ordinance does not. For instance, San Francisco’s current ordinance only applies to B, M, and R occupancies, while CALGREEN will apply to a wider range of building product types. Third, practitioners in San Francisco will want to be familiar with both CALGREEN and the third-party rating systems (such as LEED and Build It Green) regardless of the immediately applicable standard. Knowing both systems will be helpful not only in achieving compliance today, but also in marketing green buildings to buyers and tenants, and addressing any future market trends as to which rating systems ultimately prove to have more cache.

CBSC plans to place final text of the adopted 2010 Green Building Standards Code on its website, “”, for download no later than the end of the month.

In the meantime, you can read more about CALGREEN at: “”

Reminder: Mayor’s Stimulus Package Hearing to be Heard at 11 a.m. Tomorrow

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Mayor’s stimulus package tomorrow, January 21, at 11:00 a.m. in room 401 of City Hall (unlike the typical Planning Commission meetings that begin at 1:30 p.m.) Again, we urge everyone who is able to attend to do so and voice their support at this hearing.

Reuben & Junius, LLP is a full service real estate law firm. We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law. We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leases, purchase and sale agreements, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

Copyright 2010 Reuben & Junius, LLP. All rights reserved.