Editor’s Note: The CGBB is always pleased to have Sarah Grilli contribute, and here is her latest post:
On Tuesday January 12, 2010 California became the first state in the USA to pass a state-wide building code that requires comprehensive sustainable construction and energy reduction. Currently voluntary, the CalGreen Codes are mandatory starting January 2011.
The codes focus on all aspects of sustainable buildings (materials, energy, water, construction and other waste). An important piece of the legislation that media failed to mention, however, is the requirement for building commissioning and post occupancy systems management. This often overlooked piece is seen as a huge victory by the USGBC whose LEED version 3.0 also placed significant emphasis on systems performance elements.
Several California environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and NRDC along with, Build-it-Green and the USGBC (the two leading CA organizations with private green rating systems) have opposed certain elements of the codes. A key concern for some of these groups is the fear the new code will allow developers to market a development as “green” by building to code instead of the more stringent private rating systems. Thus, the new codes may cause marketplace confusion about the definition of a “green” building.
These concerns are legitimate. The fight to define “green,” is the subject of constant debate. Take the term “organic” for example. The federal “organic” label is regularly the subject of litigation and debate. Is “green” different?
As sustainable building measures become commonplace, the building community and the public will strive to comprehend what elements make a building “green.” People may still opt for buildings that exceed the State’s green code, but the state now provides an easier option. As long as the codes are enforced, smaller California communities without any green elements in their building codes will benefit enormously. This is precisely the reason a national energy efficiency building code is needed.
It is possible that “green building” will follow a similar path as “organic,” and the federal government will pass a national energy efficiency building code (See our post on the subject here and a fact sheet from the EPA here). There will always be variations on quality, but at the end of the day what’s most important is that “green building” practices become the norm.