Is California’s new green building code green enough?

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California is poised to adopt the nation’s first statewide green building code. Environmentalists praise the mandatory provisions of the code but fear it could discourage developers from building the most environmentally rigorous projects. That’s because the state is setting up its own voluntary ‘CalGreen’ rating system, which offers builders an alternative to the strict certification process of nonprofit groups such as the Washington-based U.S. Green Building Council and the Berkeley-based Build It Green.

Some businesses also are opposing a government-sponsored rating system. ‘Rather than raising the bar, the tiered approach as defined in the draft code unfortunately provides unscrupulous builders and owners with an opportunity to describe their buildings as CalGreen Tier I or CalGreen Tier II without having to substantiate their claims,’ asserted Michael J. Kirrene, president of the consulting firm Optimal Energy, in a letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger.


More than 50 California jurisdictions have based local green building codes on the council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, and they will be able to maintain their more rigorous ordinances. They include Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Culver City and Calabasas, among others. The state’s code, expected to be adopted by the California Building Standards Commission on Tuesday, would be a baseline for more than 500 cities and counties that have yet to green their codes. But new jurisdictions are free to pass more stringent regulations. Read more.

-- Margot Roosevelt